San Francisco Bay Bridge Trail (East Span)

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With the opening of the new East span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge on 2 September, and its pedestrian/bike path the next day, it was only a matter of time before I would have, or create, an opportunity to walk the path.  That opportunity came in the form of a suggestion for something special to do for a girlfriend day that happened to occur on my birthday.  It was quite a day and experience!  The bridge is beautiful, and so was the weather.

The Bay Bridge Project has created a Bay Bridge Trail that represents the publicly accessible trail.  Though still partly a work in progress, the intent is to have two bike lanes and one pedestrian lane along the new East span from the Oakland end of the bridge to Yerba Buena Island in the middle of the Bay.  I learned during my walk that Yerba Buena Island is in San Francisco City and County, so it’s actually a true statement to say that I have walked from the East Bayshore to San Francisco – and back.  I just didn’t get to downtown San Francisco.

There is an official trailhead on Shellmound St in Emeryville, and the signage is excellent.  On the first weekend that the trail was open, it was also easy to just follow other visitors eager to experience the new trail.

GPS track

GPS track

The first part of the trail is, for now, separated from the toll plaza and new roadway by a temporary holding area for debris from demolition of the original bridge approach.  This is a reminder of the work that was accomplished leading up to and during the Bay Bridge closure over the Labor Day weekend.

picture of new roadway on the left and bike/pedestrian path on the right surrounding debris holding area

New roadway on the left and bike/pedestrian path on the right surrounding debris holding area

It was a fascinating experience to be able to walk right next to the construction area so soon after the bridge opening.  A temporary section of the bike/pedestrian path climbs steeply and passes right over part of the old roadway just in front of the newly terminated eastern end of the double-deck original Bay Bridge.  It is hard to believe that, just 10 days prior to this picture, both upper and lower decks were carrying normal weekday traffic.

Note the downtown San Francisco skyline at the left.

photo of newly terminated eastern end of the original Bay Bridge, with San Francisco skyline behind

Newly terminated eastern end of the original Bay Bridge, with San Francisco skyline behind

The old bridge is to be disassembled over the next three years, and I gather that this will entail 24/7 operations.  In the meantime, the old bridge does obscure the view, both of San Francisco and (coming the other way) the Port of Oakland.

image of Port of Oakland cranes viewed through an opening in the old Bay Bridge

Port of Oakland cranes viewed through an opening in the old Bay Bridge

There is a kind of nostalgia to view, up close, the empty roadways of the old bridge.  There was a “Speed Limit 50” sign mounted on the outside of the lower deck, with no cars in sight.  And I noticed a large yellow sign above the upper deck advising “35 mph Ahead”, with yellow lights at both ends of the sign still blinking, at an empty roadway.

Along with the nostalgia for the old bridge there is the joy and excitement of a brand new bridge that was engineered to withstand the kind of earthquake that the Bay Area may expect to experience during its lifetime.  Here is a first look at the bike/pedestrian path, with the new roadway between the two rows of LED light poles.

picture of cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the first weekend on the new Bay Bridge East span

Cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the first weekend on the new Bay Bridge East span

There are several turnouts along the bike path, each with a couple of benches.  At one of these turnouts I hopped up on the bench to get a better look at Mt Tamalpais across the busy bridge traffic.  Note the top of Angel Island peeking out from behind the white pole.

photo of Mt Tamalpais on the far side of the new bridge

Mt Tamalpais on the far side of the new bridge

Gradually, more and more of the new bridge comes into view, including the already-famous tower and dramatic S-curve.  The red crane under the new bridge, at the lower right in the picture, is a reminder that there is retrofit work still in progress related to the seismic safety bolts.  Meanwhile, the ”grey lady,” as the old bridge was sometimes called, bears witness to the new span.

image of old and new Bay Bridge East spans

Old and new Bay Bridge East spans

Approaching the tower I noted the beautiful curves in the main cables, which anchor to the bridge itself (hence the term self-anchored suspension bridge).

picture of tower and beautiful curved main cables

Tower and beautiful curved main cables

An array of smaller cables suspends the bridge deck from the main cables.  These are sometimes called suspenders.

photo of suspender cables creating a beautiful geometric design

Suspender cables create a beautiful geometric design

Just past the tower and 4.1 miles from the trailhead the bike/pedestrian path terminates, for now.  After the old bridge has been removed at this end, the path will be extended to Yerba Buena Island.  This will connect Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands to the East Bay.  Recently there has been renewed discussion about adding bike/pedestrian paths to the western portion of the Bay Bridge, between Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco.

I spent 15-20 minutes enjoying the view, the bridge, the ambience, and the beautiful weather.  At one point I noticed what looked like a cormorant land on a piling in the water over 100 feet below.  It proceeded to open its wings, as if drying off, and after a minute or so turned 90 degrees, giving me a different view.

image of cormorant drying off in the Bay breeze

Cormorant drying off in the Bay breeze

I also noticed a couple of kayakers enjoying a beautiful day on the Bay.

picture of kayakers enjoying a beautiful day on the Bay

Kayakers enjoying a beautiful day on the Bay

Finally it was time to begin to walk back to the trailhead, revisiting the sights along the way.  Just after the transition from the bridge section to the approach (ground-based) section I noticed a young walker who was either power-walking or, more likely, just walking with a lot of energy on the beautiful day.

photo of young walker on the pedestrian path

Young walker on the pedestrian path

As the demolition work continues on the old bridge it will be interesting to return several times through the process, and enjoy the new Bay views from the new bridge.

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3 Responses to San Francisco Bay Bridge Trail (East Span)

  1. Pingback: San Francisco Presidio | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Buena Vista Park to Stern Grove | trailhiker

  3. Pingback: Wildcat Canyon and Tilden Regional Parks: East Bay Skyline National Trail | trailhiker

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