The Science of Sustainability

Reporter's Notes: Chasing the Story

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We were supposed to get an exclusive tour of the work being done on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, but damage to it the night before caused a bit of a speed bump to our production.

On October 27th 2009, I headed back home from a busy day at the office, making last minute preparations for our first day of shooting on the bay bridge story. We were all set, armed with a film permit which I had spent nearly a week to secure and which we needed to film the progress cal trans was making on a new, seismically sound eastern span.

But then I turned on the evening news and heard that the Bay Bridge was closed. No, it wasn’t an earthquake that was the culprit but a repair made to an eyebar over Labor Day, which now had failed, sending thousands of pounds of steel crashing down into the westbound lanes east of Yerba Buena Island. I quickly dialed the California Department of Transportation (Cal Trans) press office. They confirmed what I feared – that our shoot was indefinitely postponed, pending the necessary fixes on the bridge.

But it was too late for us to cancel the crew. The shoot had to take place. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you have to be nimble and resourceful when your story takes you in interesting, unanticipated directions – like today.

The next morning, Producer Jon Fromer and I, along with our production crew, got into our van and headed south of market street, searching for a way to get onto the bridge. We showed our media credentials to a San Francisco police officer stationed at a roadblock. He told us we could enter the bridge from an on-ramp off of 2nd Street. One lane was left open for motorists to get to Treasure Island.

Here’s a photo of our cameraman filming the bridge, looking northeast from Treasure Island at the construction on the new eastern span. You can see the cantilevered portion of the bridge. it was here that three vehicles driving at the time were struck by the falling debris. Remarkably, no one was injured.

To get a closer view of the construction work on the new eastern span, we decide to head south, driving onto Yerba Buena Island for a closer look. I took some shots of the work being done on the foundations of the self-anchored suspension span.

The span will be more than 2,000 feet, making the bay bridge the world’s largest self-anchored suspension bridge.

It was now 12:30. We decided to head to the Cal Trans public information office in Oakland, where we could check on the status of the repair work. But first we’d have to find a way to get across the bay.

Luckily for us, we found a sympathetic chp officer at the road block on Yerba Buena Island. He escorted us on a surreal trip across the bridge, eerily quiet of the rumble of passing cars.

A press conference was being convened at the Cal Trans public affairs office to explain their repair strategy and field questions from the reporters. Though no mention is made of when the bridge will re-open, Cal Trans has just agreed to allow media organizations onto the bridge to document some of the repair work taking place right now.

Finally, what we’ve been waiting all day for – a chance to get onto the bridge and see the damage up close. We take our place in the convoy of news vans and head west onto the upper deck of the bay bridge. Here is a slideshow of behind-the-scenes images I took during our visit to the bridge.

Watch The New Bay Bridge: Earthquake Makeover tv story online.

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Sheraz Sadiq

About the Author ()

Sheraz Sadiq is an Emmy Award-winning producer at San Francisco PBS affiliate KQED. In 2012, he received the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism award for a story he produced about the seismic retrofit of the Hetch Hetchy water delivery system which serves the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to producing television content for KQED Science, he has also created online features and written news articles on scientific subjects ranging from astronomy to synthetic biology.