The Good and the Bad of 60 Minutes’ Big Story About the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge

60 Minutes just aired its big been-two-decades-after-Loma-Prieta-so-why-isn’t-the-Bay-Bridge-fixed-yet bit. It was mostly good, but let’s start with the bad:

“But they may not know their most important lifeline to the outside world is also one the weakest: the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland.”

The Bay Bridge isn’t a “lifeline to the outside world,” of course.

Then there’s this:

 ”In 2004, Caltrans finished replacing half a million rivets with bolts and added 17 million tons of extra steel.”

Really, 34 billion pounds of steel? Isn’t that a lot? Wouldn’t that weigh more than every person in the western U.S.? Yes. How about 17 million pounds instead? (That’s a screaming error of more than three orders of magnitude. Journalists, when throwing about large numbers, try not to exceed three orders of magnitude. Of course, you should feel free to continue substituting million for billion and vice versa, I mean, they’re both big – they’re practically the same thing, right? Moving on…)

Now, speaking of bad, what about the workers who seem to have all the time in the world to spend tagging our cracked bridge instead of finding more cracks?

via CalTrans, actually

But hey, what about the good?

Well, there’s this:

“But the decision to build an architectural icon didn’t end problems – it started new ones. The most bizarre was with the U.S. Navy. In 1998, it refused to let Caltrans onto Yerba Buena Island to finish its engineering work. The Navy’s issue was whether the Bridge would overshadow the one-time home of Admiral Chester Nimitz, a hero of World War II.”

Did not know that. I knew there were some kinds of probs but I didn’t know that this was one of them. Bad form, U.S. Navy. Do you think old Ches cares about building shadows? I don’t. 

And then there’s this:

“But for those who would say, ‘How dare you take that risk with the lives of people who live in this community,’ you say what?” Pitts asked.

Of course the interviewer didn’t get an answer, but thanks for asking.

Our tough old Bay Bridge has handled stuff like container ship and military jet crashes over the years. Let’s hope it can survive state, federal, and local government mismanagement for just a little longer.

Hold on, Bay Bridge. Hold on.

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