For the first time, Google Earth is showing a construction project, unveiling its representation of the largest construction project in California history – the retrofitted Bay Bridge linking Oakland and San Francisco. Bart Ney, project manager at CirclePoint, a San Francisco environmental and communications consulting firm, set up the partnership between Google and Caltrans that led to the Google Earth images. “You'll be able to do things on Google Earth's Bay Bridge that would get you arrested in real life – like climbing to the top of the Self-Anchored Suspension Span's single tower, which offers breathtaking views of the Bay Area,” wrote Ney on Google's Lat Long Blog.

Having the construction on Google Earth will also give Caltrans an easy and highly visible way to communicate information about the project, such as when there will be closings.

“We need to find ways to get out to people. And there's a huge audience already playing around with Google Earth," said Ney.

Google Earth will continue to show 3-D representations of construction projects in the future.

"I would like to do more of the past, more of the future, to make Google Earth not just everywhere, but every when. A time travel machine for people to understand their heritage, and their future," said Google Earth co-founder and Chief Technology Advocate Michael Jones.

The Bay Bridge originally opened in 1936, six months before the more famous Golden Gate Bridge. Part of the bridge collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the impetus for the new design, which is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

By Mark Alvarez