Bay Bridge

Jim Murray

I was driving just east of Yerba Buena Island when I felt like I had like had a flat tire and heard a loud clank like running over a large piece of steel. The traffic was stopping, and still I was not aware of anything special until I saw people getting out to their cars. Then Dave, riding shotgun in the car pool, said the bridge had fallen. I then remembered the “flat tire” bit from driving in a previous earthquake. We could see the piece of the upper deck, with the white lines, looking like a ramp to go to the upper deck about 50 yards in front of us. Some father with a baby wrapped in a blanket was running back to the island, which has always stuck in my head as the oddest thing I saw that day. It was a pink and white blanket. Anyway, our other engineer in the back seat suggested that we go up to see what happened. I prevailed, and we walked to the island.

bay bridge 1989

We arrived at the island just as an Alameda bound AC Transit bus was making the turn-off to head back towards San Francisco. The driver agreed to give us a ride back. I thought it would be back to the TransBay Terminal. As soon as the driver was westbound, he floored it, and he did not stop accelerating until his bus was off of all elevated highway. There was almost no traffic in either direction. He was going to get his Alameda passenger home, but he was not going to go over water at either the San Mateo or Dumbarton Bridges.

Traffic started building back, and by now, it was dark. Really dark, there was no electricity anywhere. Traffic crawled along the Alviso Milpitas Road, with no electricity there were no signals, ie everything was a four way stop. There was one unfortunate lady with us who looked more than eight months pregnant, but she was able to control her bladder with a lot of squirming. About 8 PM, we were roaring up the Nimitz. Another lady, at about Hayward, started screaming about God knows what to get off the bus, and she was left at a freeway ramp. There was a young man sitting in one of the cross seats in the bus with a transistor radio of the time plugged into his. He looked like he might have mildly developmently challenged, which is not the PC thing to say. He would blurt out the news updates. “The Marina is on fire.” “The freeway in Oakland has collapsed.” ETC. So we were hearing all the bad news as it hit the airways while on the bus.

The driver ran his route backwards, and got rid of his passengers in a completely darkened Alameda. He agreed to take us to the MacArthur BART Station because that was not far out his way and he was taking the bus home and would return it in the morning. Well, getting from Alameda to the BART station meant taking an underwater tunnel, which tonight, the driver did not like any better than bridges. The bus started accelerating a couple of blocks before the ramp down into the tunnel, through the tunnel and the up ramp into Oakland.

The Contra Costa County “bus bridge” was lined up when arrived, and we got on the lead bus just a bunch of folks, who got a ferry, arrive walking from Jack London Square. The bus left almost immediately thereafter. I got home about 10:30.