san-francisco-bay-bridge-california-1935.jpgConstruction crews began installing the third set of tower sections for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge early this morning.

The work had been scheduled to start on Thursday, but Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said it began a day early because crews want to get as much work done as possible before a series of rainstorms hits the Bay Area on Friday.

Ney said that theoretically, crews could complete their work as early as Sunday by working around the clock, but that delays are expected because of the approaching rainstorms. He said the hope at this point is for the work to be completed by Christmas Eve.

The first tower sections for the new self-anchored suspension span were installed in July, and the second sections were put in place in October.

Ney said the third set of tower sections will bring the tower to 374 feet, just shy of the original eastern span’s high point of 388 feet.

He said that once the third set of sections is in place, the tower will rise nearly 38 stories above the San Francisco Bay, making it taller than other landmarks in the region such as the Coit Tower in San Francisco, the Campanile at the University of California at Berkeley and the Tribune Tower in Oakland.

The tower will reach a height of 525 feet when the final sections are installed in late February or early March.

Ney said Caltrans is warning drivers not to be distracted by the construction, which is can be seen from the existing eastern span.

He said traffic delays or accidents weren’t a problem when the first two tower sections were installed, but he said “the higher we go, the more visible the work is.”

Ney said the work to complete the new eastern span is now ahead of schedule.

He said the project was scheduled to occur in two phases, with the westbound section opening in 2013 and eastbound lanes opening in 2014, but now both directions will open at the same time in 2013.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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