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Connections 2004: Local 853 "heavily" involved in Bay Bridge concrete project

Spring 2004

The members of Local 853 in the San Francisco Bay Area often have the opportunity to exhibit their driving skills on the heavily congested highways. But actually having tens of thousands of people witness their work in making history is a bit different from an ordinary day’s work.

On the weekends of January 10-11 and Jan. 31-Feb.1, Local 853 members transported nearly 12,000 cubic yards of concrete over, across and underneath the existing San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The concrete was then placed in footings on Yerba Buena Island for the replacement span of the eastern section of the Bay Bridge. Originally built during the 1930s, the bridge failed during the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989 and is finally being replaced. The new eastern span of the bridge is scheduled to open in 2007.

“This is the West Coast version of Boston’s ‘Big Dig,’” says Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853. “Our members who work at RMC Pacific Materials showed their expertise and professionalism during the two continuous 30- plus hour pours. They have every reason to be proud of their part in making history.”

Completing these large pours presented some unusual challenges such as getting 5,000 yards of concrete through rush hour and weekend traffic and set up to pour at the same time on all kinds of terrain. According to Local 853 Vice President and Director of Construction Phil Tarantino, “All of the work was done with the existing bridge open and traffic goingback and forth without a single accident. With the heavy traffic in the area, hauling more than 1,100 loads of concrete without any traffic accidents is an accomplishment. Coping with those conditions is something our members do everyday.”

“It’s a unique process,” says Local 853 Business Agent Bo Morgan. “They had to put two huge blocks of ice into the mixer truck, then dump the concrete on top of it,” “Then they inject liquid nitrogen to cool the concrete down to a constant temperature below 50 degrees,” he explained.

Giant cranes now straddle the recently constructed “coffer dams”—huge structures built around the new bridge’s column sites. At high tide, the cranes hook on to the 1,600-ton steel boxes that will secure each column’s pilings, lowering them through the water to the bottom of the bay. During the pours, which started on Friday nights and continued into the following Sundays, it was common to see two trucks backed up to each of six pump trucks placing concrete into the massive footings.

Visible from the Bridge and the surrounding Eastbay shoreline, each of the pours went smoothly as shifts of 50 drivers hauled from plants on either side of the Bay. Both Tarantino and Morgan, along with Local 853 President John C. Becker, Sr. , Local 78 Vice President/Business Agent Kenn Hill, Jr., Local 853 Agent Stu Helfer, and others, made trips out to the site to observe progress of the job. “Our members worked both day and night, in marginal weather and in sunshine, on two different weekends to make this pour happen,” adds Aloise. “What they accomplished will be around for a long time. The members can feel good about what they did, and can tell their children and grandchildren that they helped build the new Bay Bridge. This gives real meaning to the saying: ‘Proud to be a Teamster.’”

Click here for more pictures of the Bay Bridge project.