OAKLAND -- Say adios to the celebrated Left Coast Lifter, the gigantic red-white-and-blue crane barge that hoisted some of the new Bay Bridge's heaviest pieces into place.

It will leave its Oakland Pier 7 berth under tow in the summer and head to New York where it will help build the 3.1-mile replacement Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River.

It's a far less prestigious assignment, of course.

The Tappan Zee is an ordinary cable-stayed river crossing estimated to cost a mere $4 billion, while the Bay Bridge is the largest self-anchored single tower span in the world, and set taxpayers back $6.4 billion.

But heck, a job's a job, right?

The bigger question is whether thin-skinned New Yorkers can stomach the super-size barge's moniker.

The Left Coast Lifter earned its name in 2008 when the U.S. Coast Guard unexpectedly declared it ineligible under maritime law to work in domestic waters. The 1920 Jones Act says vessels carrying goods and passengers between domestic ports must be U.S. owned, assembled and crewed.

U.S. Barge built the massive floating platform in Portland, Ore., but it was outfitted in China with one of the world's largest shear-leg cranes.

American Bridge Fluor Joint Venture, the consortium building the self-anchored suspension segment on the bridge, said builders needed a super-size crane to lift the incredibly heavy steel deck pieces, and nothing comparable was available in the U.S.

The three-week impasse among the contractor, California and the Coast Guard came perilously close to triggering more delays and cost overruns.

But then-East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher intervened and the Coast Guard relented: The barge would be permitted to work on the Bay Bridge if the contractor first put it to work hauling materials on the Left, er, West Coast.

After the Lifter finished its domestic hauling duties, its owners were free to send it to Shanghai, where it was outfitted with its distinctive crane.

Disaster averted, the Left Coast Lifter arrived at the San Francisco Bay anchorage in March 2009 aboard a ship that submerged 21 feet beneath the barge until its mammoth load floated free.

Mammoth would not be an overstatement.

At 400 feet, the Lifter is longer than a football field. It is slightly less than 100 feet wide.

The frame holding its Chinese crane is 130 feet tall and features a twin 328-foot boom. It can lift up to 1,725 metric tons or 3.8 million pounds, the equivalent of 656 fully loaded SUVs.

American Bridge Fluor Joint Venture, the contractor erecting the span, pushed the Lifter to the edge, said the company's project manager Brian Petersen.

Crews used the crane to offload from ships the bridge segments fabricated in China and erect temporary falsework that supported the bridge decks until the load was transferred to the span's milelong looped cable and tower.

Then came the span's 28 trapezoid-shaped box girder deck sections -- 14 for each of the two side-by-side roadways. The pieces were of varying lengths and weights, and in an unnerving numerical coincidence, deck segment No. 13 came within a few tons of the crane's upper limit.

To help guide the crane operators and position the barge beneath the construction site, the builders used a sophisticated global positioning satellite, Petersen said.

The Left Coast Lifter also made news when it helped a neighbor. In August 2009, an old, 300-ton Navy tugboat sank off Treasure Island. The crane easily hauled it off the bottom of the bay.

"Like the many people who have worked on the Bay Bridge, the Left Coast Lifter has served the project well," Petersen said. "Through all the trials and tribulations, just like we all will, the Lifter was able to get past it all and be successful at her mission."

Today, the engineless Lifter sits idle in the Port of Oakland awaiting its 6,000-mile tow to New York via the Panama Canal. It's being sold to the consortium of four companies -- including American Bridge -- that will build the new Tappan Zee.

If New Yorkers balk at the Left Coast Lifter name, the new owners are free to rename it.

But legend says renaming a ship is bad luck unless the owners purge the old name from Poseidon's Ledger of the Deep and pledge their fealty in a proper ceremony.

Now that we mention it, it's probably not worth the risk.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, politicswithlisav.blogspot.com or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.