Monday, May 28, 2007

New Bay Bridge, Oakland California

I read an article in the latest Popular Science magazine. The latest 'really big' project to be built in the USA is in California. The old Oakland Bay Bridge, (the OAK) which is a major 'part' of a highway connection from Oakland to San Francisco California, an Engineering wonder in it's day, is 65 years old. It was built in 1936 and cost 7 million dollars as well as 24 lives. The bridge gained world attention during the last big Earthquake to strike the Bay area, magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale. Referred to as the 'Loma Prieta' Earthquake on the Hayward fault, Wednesday 18 October 1989.

The upper 50 foot layer of traffic fell down onto the lower deck. Although a massive nightmare of crushed concrete and steel, apparently only one person lost their life. the damage was repaired within one month. (No politicians or Lawyers)

The original design in 1936, was not built to carry even a tenth as much traffic as what it handles today. 270,000 vehicles a day are rushing back and forth over the double decks. This ranks it as the busiest bridge in the world. In 1956 it was rated as one of the 'Wonders of the World'. The new bridge will not be designed to carry any more than 280,000 vehicles a day and is built to last 150 years. Does someone know something that I don't?

"Enter the Dragon", the marvelous Engineers. They have now designed a bridge that would flex and stretch up to one yard before a major failure. They have designed for the controversial tower, (if used) a huge 'Chicken foot' structure to hold footing when the soil 'liquefies' during a quake. A Berkley prof says his own design is much better (that figures). It would withstand terrorist attacks better. Check out his name in the last link about the controversy. The Hayward Fault line lies to the west of the bridge and the San Andreas fault line lies to the East of the bridge. There is a 62% chance of a magnitude 6 earthquake hitting the area within the next 10 to 20 years.

The Engineers (I love those guys, they actually work for a living) designed a system of gigantic sleeves to allow for the flex. Polymer block inserts, prevent the friction from grinding away at the joints. The new design is engineered to withstand a 7.25 Hayward earthquake and an 8.0 San Andreas fault earthquake. The machinery designed to construct this massive structure is also special and extremely large in scale. The all important cost was figured on the total construction and Engineering costs including the basic studies and permits necessary. The analysts came up with a cost of 1.3 billion.

Of course that was if built anywhere in the world but the USA. Of course California USA is even more 'Special'. Now the all important 'Political Leadership' comes into the 'game'. The 'Environmental studies', to make sure a mud puppy or a fish does not get 'squished' or even slightly maimed or displaced during construction. The tall tower, if authorised, is taken into the utterly exhaustive study because of the birds that may hit the cables. Of course the possible effect on any lost Whales are now I am sure, at the top of the list.

This list without an end, goes on and on into infinity. The aesthetics are in a constant state of revision. How it 'looks' is of the utmost importance. The safety of the design is argued endlessly. Ten years ago it was scheduled for completion in the year 2004. That has been revised to 20013 at last guesstimate. Remember, time is of the essence.

Every couple of years some other political figures get involved to either 'push forward' or 'pull backward' on this project. A sort of "Push Me Pull You" from 'Dr Doolittle' the old movie? These studies are all mandated in a virtually endless procedure known as 'due process' in a US court of Law. Of course the endless array of constantly escalating Legal fees for both sides are involved, ad'nauseum. This link reads like a 'Who's Who' in US politics. You will recognise many names on this roster of the "Push Me, Pull You" group. With attitudes like this, it is a 'wonder of the world' that this nation ever accomplishes anything.

Are you ready for this? The cost has now risen to 6.3 billion dollars. That works out to a thousand times more costly than in 1936. On top of that astronomical number, this is only the 'Eastern part' of the bridge. I had no idea that an inflation rate of over 1000% was in effect in this USA. Now that cost is very conservative because there are always endless cost overruns. More Lawyers and Politicians are sure to feel left out of this 'birds nest on the ground', as we 'exited kids' used to remark when we found one.

The United States of America, at one time was able to Engineer, as well as Build anything, get it done rapidly and at a reasonable cost. Now The Engineers and builders can still do their magic, but the USA is now so 'polluted' with legalities and politics, that to accomplish any great project, it's better to take those skills 'abroad' where they are fully appreciated.

No wonder most of the things we took for granted years ago, are now done 'overseas'. Has anyone seen the Engineering Marvels being built in Dubai? We have started to export every technology to other countries because the people here in the USA that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual building of the project, Political Lawyers, now take far more, in this case about 5 times as much, of the money spent, than the true workers and architectural designers and Engineers.

Our 'legalities' system is much sicker than most people will ever know. Remember the great system of Hydro Electric 'Dams' across the South? The TVA I mentioned in a previous blog? It could never be done again in the USA until 'Pigs Fly'. Of course the times always change and the groups that are against 'everything imaginable', will one day be dead and gone.

The future does look fine, now that I think of it that way. How long do you think it will take for the influence of those types to dissipate and common sense to return? I wish for the likes of Mr. Conde B. McCullouch to return to this USA. You may or most likely not, know that he lived from 1919 to 1946. The Oregon Coast owes it's beautiful bridge Engineering prowess of the 1930's to Conde Mc McCullouch. Now those were the USA's glory days of Engineering and "Get 'er Done".

Please check out this Legacy, just one of his many Marvels. Better yet take a leisurely trip up the Fantastic Oregon Pacific Coast along highway 1. Be sure to stop along the way and really look at each piece of his amazing Engineering. It is a refreshing look at what man can do during relatively 'legally unfettered' times.


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