Facebook’s Bridge to Nowhere – The New York Times
Facebook’s departure slowly faded, but its last breath came in May 2021 when Ms Bowen, who had led the project since 2017, left the company. In a farewell email to Mr. Slocum and others that day, which was obtained by The Times via a public records request, she wrote that she believed Facebook “had a modest awareness of the gargantuan task initially envisaged”.
The e-mail told the main lines of the story and ended on a melancholy but optimistic note. “We moved a 25-year-old rusty needle, re-energized the community, and awakened the region to possibility,” she wrote. “Certainly, we remain stuck in the reality that it takes on average more than 20 years to build a meaningful bridge in the United States. We need to change that. And we go.”
A year and a half later, however, it seems unlikely that Facebook will be part of this change. In almost every way, including its name, Facebook, now Meta, is a much different company than it was in 2015. Where Facebook was growing, Meta is retrenching, cutting products, disbanding entire teams, and spending nearly $3 billion to reduce its desktop footprint. . With this change, Meta is delivering on some of its promises to the local community, including its plans for a new 59-acre mixed-use development in Menlo Park called Willow Village. But it seems clear that as the company cuts both jobs and leases, it is focusing less on building infrastructure in the physical world and more on attracting users to its virtual world.
And yet, while Meta’s priorities may have shifted, the need in its own backyard has not diminished. According to data from the transport commission, on March 13, 2020, just before the world shut down, around 30,400 cars crossed the Dumbarton road bridge, which runs alongside the ruined railway bridge. As of September 30, 2022, there were approximately 30,500.
Travel remains brutal for employees who cannot work remotely, including Angelina Sanchez, a janitor at Meta, who told The New York Times through a translator in October that she traveled about 90 miles in each way to and from Modesto, leaving home at 5 a.m. and not returning until 10:30 p.m. Ms Sanchez, a mother of three, said she lived in nearby Palo Alto but had moved further and further to find affordable housing.
The Dumbarton Rail project would not have solved these problems on its own. But it could have helped. The question is: whose job is it?
The public sector, which has the mandate but lacks the resources, or the tech companies, which have escalated the problem but ultimately respond to investors?