San Francisco Bay Bridge steel to become public art

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Bay Bridge has connected Oakland and San Francisco and been part of the Bay Area skyline for almost 80 years.

Now, nearly two years after a new span has opened, the old one is coming down.

The parts, however, aren’t headed for the landfill. Instead, artists will have a chance to use some of the 480 tons of gray steel girders, rods and rivets to make public projects for parks, trails, parking lots and bus shelters.

San Francisco Bay Area artist Michele Pred plans on submitting a proposal.

“It’s a great opportunity for local artists to make use of something so symbolic and representative of the Bay Area,” said Pred, who in 2002 tried unsuccessfully to obtain access to some of the steel from the World Trade Center.

Applications are being accepted now through the start of October under a program run by the Oakland Museum of California. In addition to the museum, the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Bay Area Toll Authority are involved in the $2.2 million distribution project.

The steel will be cleaned and ready to be divvied out for free next year. Artists are then on their own to cover the costs to make the public art and find a spot to display it.

The original span was built in 1936. In September, 2013 the new span opened and parts that have come down have been sent for recycling, said John Goodwin, MTC/BATA spokesman. This summer, the rest will be dismantled for the art projects.

“Over the years, well before demolition even began, artists approached (transportation agencies) about using the Bay Bridge steel in various ways,” Goodwin said.

The agencies “enlisted the help of the Oakland Museum to fulfill these requests and ensure that the old pieces of the old Bay Bridge are used in ways that the public can access,” he said.

Parts will come from two stretches of the span, known as “504’s” and “288’s” in reference to their length in feet.

Pred is an artist who has made art from old cellphones, discarded birth control pills and confiscated items from airline passengers. She knows that getting funding and space can be tough and will support the idea of a fund to help artists and workshops on how to secure funding and public spaces.

“I imagine that each project will cost at least $200,000 to develop and create,” she said. Of course, projects will vary in size and cost.

There are smaller items, such as 1,000 rivets up for grabs, and larger items such as 10 vertical truss members available, Goodwin said.

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On the Web: http://www.BayBridgeSteel.org

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