New Bay Bridge Troll Unveiled

Should you have any doubt whatsoever as to the safety of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span, have no fear. Meet the new Bay Bridge troll, whose protection all drivers are now under. The photo was sent out over the Bay Bridge Twitter feed last night.

bridgetroll

During the retrofit after the 1989 earthquake, the old troll, created by artist Bill Roan, was welded in place on the north side of the eastern span, without official sanction. The L.A. Times has the story of how that occurred…

Employed by a West Oakland shop that allowed workers to fabricate their own creations after hours, this artist had begun work on a gargoyle-like earthquake god named San Andreas shortly before the temblor struck on Oct. 17, 1989.

After the owner of a neighboring shop got the contract to fabricate the span’s replacement beams, the artist was asked if he wanted to put San Andreas on the bridge.

“I thought that was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard,” he recalled, reasoning that Caltrans would yank it down and his work would wind up in some office or flea market. He declined.

Yet as the days passed, he saw how hard the ironworkers labored on the replacement deck. He thought of the everyday citizens who had performed heroic rescues on the collapsed Cypress Street Viaduct nearby.

He changed his mind, opting to come up with a creation based on the ancient lore of trolls — an amalgamation with a dragon’s head, the horns of a goat (a nod to the Three Billy Goats Gruff, who cross a cranky troll’s bridge) and webbed appendages in case it “needed to swim around the piers to do work.”

Photos of the old troll here.

In discussing what would happen to the 18-inch figure, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler told the Chronicle, “I can tell you that there have been a lot of discussions about this at the highest levels.”

Yeah, no kidding. From a white paper by the Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program:

Ideally, this long-serving guardian would be retired to a place of honor, and a new troll welcomed onto the new bridge. Such action would be consistent with a long-standing tradition that recognizes trolls for their superior strength, longevity and protective powers—all characteristics for which the new East Span of the San-Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is designed as well.

The Mercury News wrote yesterday: “Removed from the old span surreptitiously earlier this week, the shy Bay Bridge troll made a rare appearance, posing for photos before being moved to an “undisclosed location.”

The white paper also discussed plans for a new troll:

The Project Management Team recommends that this new Bay Bridge troll, like its predecessor, should be made of steel. The new troll should be housed in a location properly covered and shaded from the sun, to be seen only by those who seek him out. In accordance with Bay Bridge tradition, the fabrication should be performed as a rogue act, either by union ironworkers from the Bay Bridge project, or by a West Oakland group such as The Crucible. The TBPOC simply should make known that the Committee and its constituent agencies will respond permissively to an unofficial project of this sort, pursuing a policy that might best be described as benign noninterference.

No word yet on where the new troll will go.

Related

  • Denise Leitzel

    Thank heavens there’s going to be a Troll!

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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