Remaking The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Karen Trapenberg Frick
Associate Professor
City & Regional Planning

On 17 October 1989 one of the largest earthquakes since 1906 struck Northern California. Damage was extensive, none more so than the partial collapse of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge’s eastern span. What ensued over the next 25 years is the extraordinary cautionary tale to which any governing authority should pay heed.In her new book, Trapenberg Frick describes the process by which the bridge was replaced as an exercise in shadowboxing which pitted the combined talents and shortcomings of the State’s leading elected officials, engineers, and architects against a collectively imagined future catastrophe of unknown proportions and highlights three key questions:

  • If safety was the reason to replace the bridge, why did it take almost 25 years to do so?
  • How did an original estimate of $250 million in 1995 soar to $6.5 billion by 2014?
  • And why was such a complex design chosen?

Her final chapter provides recommendations to improve megaproject delivery and design.