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Jaxon Van Derbeken on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge

Flickr/Kenneth Lu

When the eastern span of the Bay Bridge was built, it was designed to be awe-inspiring. A shining tower rising high above the water, suspending one of the nation’s most significant thoroughfares.

It does all that, but massive cost overruns and continuing structural problems have many people deeply concerned about whether building such an innovative bridge was a good idea.

One of those people is Jaxon Van Derbeken, an investigative journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle. He sat down to talk with KALW’s Ben Trefny.

"It's funny, you know the same company that helped design this bridge – T.Y. Lin – is now doing an analysis that says the things that they envisioned as being necessary aren't really necessary. And it's kind of interesting, nobody's really pressed, that the same design firm could find that the bridge needed this elaborate mechanism of being bolted down, this tower which is very heavy. The idea was to keep it from jumping up and damaging itself in the process of upheaval. And I think the idea was – based on what we've talked to people who remember the design at the onset – is that they didn't want to torque this tower, they didn't want to damage it, because it's very difficult to repair with the bridge still functioning. They wanted to keep it from moving at all. The latest study from T.Y. Lin says it might move a fraction of an inch. If that's the case, then perhaps the repairs would not be dramatic. But it does sort of defy logic." - Jaxon Van Derbeken

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview. 

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.