Loma Prieta, 20 years later

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The San Jose Mercury News is running a look back at the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. A California native, I was living on the east coast at the time, watching on TV as my beloved Giants prepared to play a World Series game.

Mark Purdy describes the stadium in the minutes after the quake.

And the cheering started. Lusty roars. Loud. The vibe was: "Hey, it’s a Bay Area series and this is cool!" But then reports reached the ballpark about the bridge and the fire. The scoreboard flickered out. Power was gone. Things grew quiet. I hiked down to the field and interviewed players, who were plucking their families out of the stands. A cop with a megaphone told fans to evacuate. The A’s team bus returned to Oakland via San Jose because the bridges were all closed.

And those bridges? Twenty years after the quake, they’re still undergoing work to make them safe for the next quake.

Debates about project design, location and aesthetics slowed the east span planning, adding to the cost. State officials initially figured they could fix the entire bridge in place, but later decided they had to replace the east span.

Political squabbles added to delays. When he was the San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown held up the east span between 1998 and 2000 as he objected that the Caltrans design for it would harm his city’s redevelopment ambitions for Treasure Island.

Twenty years and counting for the retrofit. I’d imagine there’s people who’s entire careers have been spent working on the bridges.


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