Friday, October 21, 2005

After we'd gotten the bridge itself retrofitted, it was time to grade the site in San Jose where we were going to install the bridge. There was a small working-class Hispanic neighborhood right where Capitol Expressway met 680 met 101. This neighborhood was cut off from schools, parks & shops by Lower Silver Creek. The local kids would build bridges out of doors & tires in the summer, but not everyone could use them. And in winter the flow was too strong & would wash away the bridges. The Santa Clara Valley Water District (our client) has been promising these people a bridge for over ten years & only now had all the financial pieces fallen into place.

Here's Tony looking down into one of the holes has just drilled for the 30' piers we need to pour. CalTrans specs - sheesh! Things are getting busy in the background as our operator John Mayer climbs off the Bobcat & PG&E re-routes electrical wires on the other side of the creek so our crane won't get fried when it hoists the bridge into place.

After the piers got poured, we built forms on top of them for the foundations that the bridge-ends will sit on. In the picture below, Vic is pretending to measure something, to give the photo a little more oomph. Yes, Vic decided to stay with the project after we left Linden, so he's driving from Stockton to San Jose & back everyday.

With all the above activity, it's no wonder that Tony & Vic enjoy a nice sit-down lunch break.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

In July I started working for Berkeley Engineering Co. as a project manager. When I got hired, the company became a two-person engineering company. It's a union shop, so when we need some help & expertise we call the appropriate union hall. In July we dismantled some Rotating Biological Contactor units (RBCs) at the Benicia Waste Treatment Facility. When the new media packs come in, we'll install those & put the units back together.

Then our big job started in August. We moved a 120' steel pedestrian bridge from the City of San Jose's corps yard out to R&B Protective Coatings in Linden, a small town surrounded by walnut groves, 10 miles east of Stockton. Here's the bridge on the right & a walnut grove on the left.

Everyday for several weeks I'd leave Oakland around 5:30am to get to Linden by 7am. It's a long drive but not all that unpleasant watching the sun come up over the fields & groves. For all those people living in Tracey etc., though, the commute towards the Bay Area is insane. By the time I would crest the Altamont Pass heading out, there would be a solid ribbon of white leading all the way to Tracy - the headlights of thousand of cars that were already moving at only 5-10 mph - at 6am - 25 miles yet from where they were going. That's nuts.

Out in Linden we had to take the bridge's old wooden deck off & make a new steel deck that would meet current ADA requirements. Here we're welding new 1"x1" angle iron in between the old angle iron, so that kids can't get their heads stuck.

We used some new steel, like the angle iron, deck plate & new nuts & bolts etc. The twelve internal plates that held the two-piece bridge together were each made to fit in only one specific location, so new nuts had to be welded in exactly the same place on the plates as the old ones were - or the bolts wouldn't fit into them. It was kind of a complicated process to make that happen. Here is our union laborer & all-around workhorse, Victor Gonzales, grinding down some welds. Vic did a lot of grinding on this project.

We all did a lot of grinding on this project. It was hot in the valley in August & September. No shade at all while actually working. My tan was starting to look okay by the time we were wrapping up the retrofit.

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