Bridge Yard Shop

Repurposing a Piece of Transportation History in Oakland, California

by Marcus Dodson, publisher


Restoring a historic building is never an easy job, and The Bridge Yard was no exception. The Interurban Electric Railway Bridge Yard Shop (IERBYS) was constructed in Oakland, California, in the 1930s. For decades thereafter, the 24,000 sq.ft. facility served as a maintenance shop for electric-powered cable and train cars that serviced much of the Bay Area. As time progressed and cable rails and trains were replaced with cars, the IERBYS was eventually decommissioned.

In the 21st century, the old facility was incorporated into the Gateway Park Project, which reimagined the shoreline property on the Oakland end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, transforming it into a mixed-use facility incorporating parks, trails, viewing decks, and an event venue. Fittingly, the IERBYS facility was converted to a multipurpose building with the iconic San Francisco Bay serving as its backdrop.

A Classic Look with Modern Materials

When Westech Roofing of Richmond, California, was hired to replace the venue’s roof, they knew they would be confronted with the challenge of replicating the roof’s original look, as if often the case with historic preservations. Understanding how the roof had to look was easy, thanks to the availability of original photography. However, specifying the right roofing materials would take extra consideration.

The original roof was a hot-applied, built-up cap sheet roof, which meant that a hot asphalt roof system initially seemed like a good match. Applying a new hot asphalt system, however, posed serious safety and logistical concerns. Doing so would require moving kettles of hot asphalt to and from the structures of 17 separate roof decks, all while battling strong, consistent winds blowing in from the nearby San Francisco Bay. With this in mind, the contractor decided to use a CertainTeed® Flintlastic® SA self-adhering system.


The Right Materials for the Job

Using a self-adhered system would allow for both jobsite safety and labor efficiencies while complying with the requirement to maintain the building’s original appearance. Westech chose a three-ply system consisting of Flintlastic SA NailBase, Flintlastic SA MidPly, and Flintlastic SA Cap sheet FR, made of SBS-modified bitumen. The SA system provided high-performance materials that would not require the use of torches or hot asphalt, and it also negated the mess and fumes typically associated with hot materials.

An additional challenge for the contractor was the flashing. The numerous roof decks included two areas in which the roof needed to be flashed to the siding on the building’s exterior. Unfortunately, the siding was constructed with asbestos boards. The Westech team, therefore, needed to use a flashing product that would not require disruption to the panels. The contractor decided to use SmartFlash® liquid flashing, thus eliminating the need to alter the asbestos-laden siding.

“Traditional low-slope BUR application involves an element of risk, particularly when you are dealing with hot asphalt, torches, and the difficulty of transporting those tools across multiple decks in a high-wind environment,” said Abby Feinstein, product manager, commercial roofing, CertainTeed. “For this unique project, we were happy to offer a self-adhered roof system option because it eliminated a lot of variables that could have made the job more dangerous, without compromising the desired protection and look of a bituminous, multi-layer roof system. Not only were the crews able to do their jobs more safely, they were able to find labor savings for a job that would have been extremely labor-intensive.”

The End Result

Today, the park bears the name Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline. It provides an entryway to the East Bay that connects pedestrians and bicyclers to paths on the bridge. The renovated IERBYS structure, The Bridge Yard, has achieved celebrity status. The venue hosts a variety of events, ranging from galas to concerts to private and corporate affairs. Guests can enjoy the sense of history The Bridge Yard offers, while facility managers appreciate the peace-of-mind a state-of-the-art roof affords.