Workers Scramble to Repair Bay Bridge by Tuesday Morning

September 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Around-the-clock effort has begun to fix a crack in the bay bridge before the Labor Day weekend comes to a close, but traffic trouble could last into the week. "We can't say for sure yet. We are going to do everything we can to get this repair done and complete all the work on the Bay Bridge to open it Tuesday morning," said Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney.

Inspectors found the crack while contractors were working on a project to make the bridge earthquake proof.

A time lapse video of the construction on the detour shows crews moving out a 300-foot long, 36-hundred ton segment, and then moving in a substitute piece. They're still on target to finish off this piece of the bridge in time to open on Tuesday.

But more important now is the repairs on the crack and late Sunday afternoon, Caltrans talked about whether those can be finished in time. "I think it is physically possible, but we don't know for sure exactly if we're going to make it," said Ney.

Workers scaled the bridge to begin repairs on the crack, but the real work couldn't begin until the materials arrived. "The first question is 'When will we get all the materials here?' and the second question is 'How fast this crew can do the repair?' Right now we can't say for sure this is going to be done by Tuesday Morning," said Ney.

Those materials, a steel saddle that will be welded into place to alleviate some of the stress on the damaged i-bar, finally arrived Sunday afternoon. The parts were built overnight in Arizona. The saddle was then flown to Oakland and rushed, with a C.H.P. escort, to the construction site Sunday.

With a deadline to re-open the bridge by 5am on Tuesday and a ten-person work crew standing by, no second went to waste. "The challenge is that we needed to get materials here immediately in the middle of a weekend; in the middle of Labor Day Weekend."

Photos from Caltrans show the crack's location 120 feet in the air on the eastern span. It was discovered Saturday afternoon during a routine safety inspection.

Engineers don't know how long it's been there, said it wasn't there during the last safety inspection that took place when the bridge was closed two years ago.

They said the crack would have been enough to shut the bridge down on its own. The discovery, and now the potential delay, has overshadowed the good news and the purpose of the four-day bridge closure.

The old section of the bridge was successfully rolled out and a new portion rolled into place. Workers made more progress on completing that job on Sunday.

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