Underneath the flash and the glitz was a blue collar.
The new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is a signature span like no other, but above all else it was designed and built to carry more traffic. So far, it isn’t.
Now, part of the reason behind the spike is the fact that the bridge is fresh, and people just have to cross it to say they did. However, the grand opening was weeks ago, and car counts are not getting any lower. There is a reason: More are going back to work in the San Francisco Bay area. According to the California Employment Development Market, as of July there were 95,400 more people employed in Golden Gate land than a year ago.
Public transit is not coming to the rescue here, either. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) was on strike earlier this summer, and another one may be on the horizon. That will just thrust more traffic on routes and bridges in the area.
Still, the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was designed to handle more traffic seamlessly—and even the finest of experts cannot figure out why it is not doing the job. The BART strike threat might possibly blow over, but I am not so sure the traffic crisis on the newest bridge is going to go away anytime soon.
The situation does not bode well for our industry. Ever since I joined Roads & Bridges magazine the talk has always been how we need to try to build our way out of congestion. Well, this is a prime example of failure—and the whole world is watching. I still believe our road and bridge network needs to expand to handle the increase in population over the next 20 years, but it needs to be done in the right manner. Instead of pointing at the glitz and flash and saying, “Oooooh, look at that,” we need to point and say, “See, that’s a highway hard at work.”