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Magical Conditions Ripe for New Troll on New Bay Bridge Span

Installation of a troll on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would be a "rogue act." (California Department of Transportation via Wikipedia)

Troll on existing span. Installation of a troll on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would be a “rogue act.” (California Department of Transportation via Wikipedia)

Ten years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget, but who cares? What drivers need to know is whether or not the new Bay Bridge span will include a protective troll.

The soon-to-be-retired eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge harbors a troll, which mysteriously appeared after repairs made to the bridge necessitated by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Caltrans never approved the troll, but never evicted it either.

According to legend and mythology, trolls provide protective powers for bridges, which makes sense, because, according to one Norwegian source, trolls are simply too big to live anywhere but in the space under a bridge. Additionally, bridges cast a shadow to protect trolls from sunlight.

Such symbolism is not unusual among engineers. In the 1920s, Canadian universities began awarding iron pinky rings (now stainless steel) at convocation ceremonies to professional engineering graduates, as a reminder of the 1907 Quebec Bridge collapse that killed 75 workers and was attributed to poor planning and design by that bridge’s engineers. American universities began to adopt the practice in the 1970s.

So, Bay Area residents have been asking: Will the existing troll move to the new span? Will it stay under the old span to protect workers during demolition?

John Goodwin, Public Information Officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told Action Alameda News, “the original troll will be rescued before that section of the bridge is dismantled. The window for troll rescue opens tonight [Wed. Aug 28th] and will remain open for at least the next year.”

Goodwin continued, “As to a new troll, it is important to keep in mind that trolls are magical creatures, and the original troll’s appearance was an act of magic in which neither Caltrans nor any other agency played a role. The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee wants to create conditions under which magic can happen again.”

Goodwin also provided a light-hearted white paper, entitled For Whom the Troll Dwells, that contains recommendations for the “Troll Bridge Program Oversight Committee.”

According to the paper, the existing troll enjoys immense popularity among the public, and is credited with protecting the bridge for the past 24 years. As the paper notes, “While no causal relationship can be established between the presence of the Bay Bridge troll and the absence of any earthquake‐related interruptions to the Bay Bridge’s service during the past 24 years, the correlation cannot be denied.”

The troll even has it’s own Facebook page.

The paper recommends that a new troll be fabricated and installed as a “rogue act” with the support of ironworkers from the Bay Bridge project or The Crucible, a fire-and-brimstone industrial arts education facility located in Oakland. Bridge officials and interested agencies should respond with “benign noninterference” and installation of a new troll might be considered a final, “topping out,” exercise for the bridge project.

The existing troll should be preserved along with the upper deck beam from the existing bridge that shelters it, and relocated to a safe and shady spot at the Interurban Electric Railway Bridge Yard Shop near the bridge toll plaza, according to the paper’s authors.

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