The Bay Bridge is back in service today after construction crews completed emergency repairs to a cracked eye bar in the early morning hours yesterday.
With public announcements warning motorists that the birdge was closed, transportation officials surprised everyone shortly after 7 a.m. by declaring the repair work completed and reopening the bridge. Traffic was backed up on I-580 and I-680 aorund Pleasanton as most commuters headed to altnerative Bay crossings while there was sparse traffic on the newly-reopened Bay Bridge.
The cracked eye bar was spotted during a routine inspection of the bridge Saturday, and California Department of Transportation Director Randell Iwasaki said at a 5 p.m. news conference Monday that emergency repairs could require an extended closure of the bridge.
Iwasaki said Caltrans' goal was to have the bridge opened earlier if possible, and Tuesday morning he was able to announce that had happened.
Caltrans determined that a two-inch beam was cracked through about halfway, and declared the problem to be "significant enough to have closed the bridge on its own."
On Saturday, after the cracked eye bar was discovered, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney gave the first indication that a 5 a.m. Tuesday bridge reopening might not happen. He told reporters that it would be "quite a challenge" to repair the damaged part in time to meet Tuesday's opening deadline. He said the crack has to be repaired immediately and acknowledged that the work may stretch past Tuesday.
The Bay Bridge closed Thursday night and was scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. this morning after a complex Labor Day weekend replacement project that called for crews to be stationed 150 feet in the air to cut away a double-deck bridge section the size of two stacked football fields and slide in a prefabricated replacement.
But the cracked piece, located on the eastern span of the bridge, had construction crews scrambling this weekend to complete designs for the repair work and gather all the materials needed to finish the project, according to Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.
Ney said all the materials need for the emergency repairs arrived by plane Sunday, were laid out, measured and marked for installation, and that work got under way immediately. A 10-man crew is doing the work on the damaged part of the bridge and now has all the necessary equipment on hand.
"It's actually been an incredible effort just to get fabricators together, the design done, and all the materials here during a Labor Day weekend when most people are out enjoying barbecues," Ney said.
The crack was found as part of an inspection that is federally mandated to take place once every two years. Ney said the crack was not there during the inspection two years ago, and is "definitely not related to the Labor Day weekend bridge construction."
The delayed opening was especially disappointing to the hundreds of construction workers who had labored through the weekend on the complex bridge replacement project. Speakers at yesterday's news conference praised the work of those crews.
"I want to assure you that when you return to this bridge, it's going to be safer than when you left it," Iwasaki said.