Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said today that he still hopes that the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will open in early September despite problems with numerous bolts on the span.
However, Heminger admitted at a Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee meeting this morning that there are “no definitive answers yet” to important questions such as why the bolts failed, what the best solution is, and how much it will cost to fix the problem.
He told the committee, “Based on what we know today, we think we’ll be OK” for opening the new span on time over the Labor Day weekend, but added, “We can’t give you a guarantee.”
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said it’s “scary” that there is still not a certain date for opening the bridge, and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said the MTC should give cities adequate notice if the opening will be delayed so that hotel rooms being reserved for the occasion could be released for other uses.
Both Campos and Quan are on the committee.
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Bay Bridge opening date up in the air [Chron]
MTC officials learned about a month ago that roughly one-third of the 96 bolts that were installed on a pier just east of Yerba Buena Island had popped out several inches after they were tightened recently.
Those bolts, which were manufactured in Ohio in 2008, are located near where the new span’s self-anchored suspension span meets its skyway.
California Transportation Commission deputy director and chief engineer Stephen Maller said construction officials are exploring several options for addressing the issue.
There are a total of 288 anchoring bolts on the new span. Heminger said officials are still trying to determine whether the other 192 bolts, which were manufactured in 2010, will be OK or if they will also have to be replaced.
He said there was a clear hydrogen embrittlement problem with the first group of bolts but that “it’s not clear where it came from” and whether the same problem could affect the second group of bolts.
Heminger said the process of determining the best solution is taking time because engineering experts are still investigating the problem and an independent peer review panel is checking the engineers’ work so that there is “a fresh set of eyes” to make sure everything is done properly.
Heminger said MTC and Caltrans officials will come back to the Toll Bridge Oversight Committee “every few weeks for some time” to give updates on their progress.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News