Workers discover loose Bay Bridge joint 'by chance'

December 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
More questions are being asked about the safety of drivers on the Bay Bridge after a close call Tuesday morning. Overnight, crews repaired a problem that was discovered by accident.

The problem could have been the most disastrous of all the recent Bay Bridge problems, as a joint holding a steel strip in place started to come loose. Fortunately, workers were already up there working.

"It connects two sections of roadway. It connects two parts of the bridge together," said Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney. "If that joint fails it pops up and you could potentially have tire damage to cars... A piece of still would start to pop up and they'd be running into it."

Caltrans says "quite by chance" the joint came loose right where repair crews were working already working on an eyebar which was found to be cracked during the Labor Day weekend closure.

A few weeks after the crack was discovered, more than a ton of steel used in repairs rained down onto the upper deck, forcing the bridge to be closed for several days for more repairs.

After spotting the problem Tuesday, crews closed the appropriate lanes and re-welded the joint. The delay in reopening the three lanes led to a massive traffic jam. Caltrans says the incident was not related to the previous eyebar problems.

"It was not related to the work that's going on at all," said Ney. "It's age really. There are six joints that we're looking at replace next month and this was one of them."

Caltrans says long-term repairs to the eyebar will begin on Friday weather permitting. They say the work will happen overnight and require closing three lanes on the upper deck and one on the lower deck, for three weeks.

Caltrans basically says, "No harm, no foul." But, the incident raises questions about the health of the old bridge, even as new repairs begin on Friday.


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