SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, East Span

San Francisco, California

Donald MacDonald Architects provided design services for the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Working with the acclaimed New York bridge engineering firm, Weidlinger Associates, the team designed and conceptualized various modifications on a self-anchoring suspension bridge concept. The MacDonald/Weidlinger team also worked with the joint venture of T.Y. Lin International/ Moffat & Nichol to create a signature bridge for the San Francisco Bay. After four presentations, the panel selected the MacDonald/Weidlinger self-anchoring suspension system. The selection was favored because this system worked well with the family of the existing San Francisco Bay bridge.

Learn more about the design of this project in Donald MacDonald’s book, here.

The DMD designed East Span of the Bay Bridge (San Francisco-Oakland) complements and counterpoints the existing bridges ringing the San Francisco Bay from Carquinez to the Golden Gate. The design of this self-anchoring suspension bridge includes elements that nod to both Yerba Buena Island’s inverted-arch form and the Oakland Harbor gantry cranes.

Connecting Treasure Island, a state park, to Alameda county, the new bridge span boasts a bicycle lane and is surrounded by recreational areas where cycling, boating, and sailing are commonplace activities. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is a structure rich with historical and cultural significance. Such a signature bridge is a controversial project, meriting the involvement of eight different local counties.

During conceptual design, DMD’s team studied the requirements of local wetlands and eelgrass habitats. Our team collaborated with the engineers to incorporate bubble dams to protect sensitive natural environments from pile driving sonic waves. Nests for indigenous cormorants were also integrated into the bridge to avoid displacing local wildlife.

Donald MacDonald developed an overview discussing the bridge’s relationship to other suspension bridges in the Bay Area, the surrounding island shapes, and the context of the Oakland and Berkeley Hills. He also spent time familiarizing many of the region’s political leaders with the complexity of the project, as well as the appropriateness of a self-anchored suspension bridge for the location. Donald MacDonald Architects also worked closely with the Caltrans Public Relations Department to ensure that the project would not be derailed by public opinion and local politics. DMD’s active role in public relations allowed the public to understand the aesthetics of the bridge and thus led to displays of acceptance in the design, which proved key in winning the design competition.