Construction of the Bay Bridge's new self-anchored suspension span reached a milestone today when the first deck section was hoisted into place by workers using the largest barge-mounted crane on the West Coast.
"This is history in the making," Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney proudly told reporters who viewed the construction work from a boat
underneath the bridge this morning.
Workers from American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises, the contractor hired to build the new eastern span, lifted the deck section, which weighs 1,020 tons and is nearly 84 feet long, to the span's temporary steel support structure, 120 feet above the San Francisco Bay.
After carefully putting the steel deck section into place, crews will attach it to a rail conveyance system that will move it several hundred feet west to its permanent spot above Yerba Buena Island.
Although Ney described the installation of the deck section as "a significant milestone" in the long process of building a new eastern span to make the bridge more seismically safe, the work is happening about a year later than originally anticipated.
That's because the deck sections, which are being made by subcontractor ZPMC at its steel fabrication plant in Shanghai, China, were supposed to start arriving about a year ago but were held up by welding problems at the plant.
The first eight deck sections didn't arrive until two weeks ago. There are a total of 28 deck sections; the other sections are expected to arrive later this year.
Ney said the first eight deck sections that will be installed are the smallest, and larger sections will be installed later. The various sections have different weights, from 559 tons to 1,669 tons, and different lengths, from 60 feet to 229 feet.
At 2,047 feet long, the portion of the new span the sections will create will be the longest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world, Caltrans says.
The first section of a 525-foot-tall tower that will eventually be built is expected to arrive in July, Ney said.
"An enormous amount of work on the suspension span will be done this year," Ney said. People who drive on the Bay Bridge should see significant progress on the new eastern span by the end of this year, he said.
Although the deck sections began arriving about a year late, Ney said Caltrans still hopes that the new eastern span will open to traffic in 2013 as originally expected.
He said the project is expected to cost a total of $6.3 billion. An additional $900 million has been set aside for contingency costs.