Bay Bridge reopens, ending 6-day 'nightmare' for commuters

Led by state police cars, first few motorists head for San Francisco as barricades are lifted

The Bay Bridge reopened at 9 a.m. yesterday, ending a five and one-half-day-long closing caused last Tuesday when a crossbeam and rods crashed on the cantilever section of the bridge near Yerba Buena Island and damaged three vehicles.

At a news conference at 8:30 a.m. Monday, California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said all of the construction and repair equipment was removed and bridge authorities were poised at both ends of the bridge to remove barriers and allow vehicles to start crossing.

Overhead news photos showed the first vehicles were being led across the upper deck toward San Francisco by state police at a very slow speed, with one newscaster asking if this was a test to see if the bridge would hold up.

"The final visual inspections showed everything is in place and we're ready to reopen the bridge," Ney said. "We all want o thank the public for its patience."

Ney said crews performed stress tests Saturday, and that "engineers didn't get what they were looking for."

The tests showed that there was still metal-on-metal fatigue between pieces of the new repair structure, which is replacing repairs of a cracked eyebar discovered over Labor Day weekend.

The metal-on-metal fatigue, apparently caused by high winds on the bridge, caused the steel crossbar and two steel rods that were part of the original repairs to fall onto the bridge Tuesday evening.

Crews took the night off late Saturday after working 24 hours a day since the bridge closed, Ney said.

"They've been hard at it for four days," Ney said. "We thought it was a good time to take a rest."

He said they resumed work at 7 a.m. Sunday and did not have a break until their work was completed yesterday.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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