SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Eight months after opening to traffic, a metal troll was secretly installed last week to protect travelers on the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge.
The sculpture is a replacement to the original troll, a two-foot steel figure that was secretly attached by iron workers who fixed the old Eastern Span after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. Artist Bill Roan created that original troll.
“The troll was placed there to pay homage to the workers of the bridge and also as a good luck charm to the bridge, to keep our bridge safe,” said Bay Bridge spokesperson Victor Gauthier.
For the new span, a new troll was crafted. The troll was quietly placed last Friday at the foot of one of the bridge supports.
To create it, the bridge builders turned to the iron workshop where the original troll was built. Michael Bondi Metal Design in Richmond is known for their amazing work with iron and steel.
Felipe Vazquez-Selbas helped build the first troll. When the call came in to build a new troll, he said, “We say, ok, this is going to be for a long time so we got to do a really, really nice piece. So, yeah, it means something for us.”
Everyone in the shop worked on the troll, which they decided should be holding a hammer and torch.
“I told the guys that I want them to do a serious blacksmithing piece. So, they chose, the team, to do a one-piece forging,” said Michael Bondi.
That means it was not welded together. The entire thing was made out of a single hunk of steel that was cut, bent, tapered and forged. It took the team three days and was incredibly difficult, but it also became an expression of professional pride.
“It became a statement of craft, because they chose a difficult way to do it and they executed it very well,” Bondi said.
There have been a lot of complaints about the construction of the Bay Bridge, many of them well-founded. But the new troll might be a reminder that there are people who take pride in their work, even when few will ever see it.
The new troll is near the eastern end of the new Eastern Span. It can only be seen by boat or partially from the pedestrian path, not from the roadway. Caltrans warns drivers not to slow down to look for the troll.