Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said today that it will be another six weeks before it’s determined whether the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge can open on schedule on September 3.
Heminger told the MTC’s Bay Area Toll Authority, “There’s no way to sugarcoat it: we’ll need more time because we’re not quite there yet.”
In the fifth of a series of ongoing briefings on problems with faulty anchor bolts on the span, Heminger said transportation officials need to complete a series of tests and fix the problems with at least some of the bolts before a decision is reached on whether to open the new span over Labor Day weekend.
Heminger said the decision on opening the bridge on schedule will be announced at the toll authority’s meeting on July 10.
The MTC and the California Department of Transportation learned in March that about a third of the 96 bolts installed on a pier just east of Yerba Buena Island had failed.
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The bolts, or anchor rods, which are located near where the new span’s self-anchored suspension span meets its skyway, popped out several inches after being tightened. They were manufactured in Ohio in 2008.
Heminger said those bolts definitely need to be replaced but transportation officials are still trying to figure out if they need to replace another batch of 192 bolts manufactured in 2010. None of those bolts have failed so far.
Joining Heminger and other transportation officials at the meeting today, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said tests that are determining the safety of the 2010 batch of bolts won’t be completed until late June.
Dougherty said the Federal Highway Transportation Commission will then review the test results to make an independent determination about whether it will be safe to open the new span on schedule or if the opening should be delayed.
Heminger said, “We still need a lot of information” but transportation officials still think “it’s entirely possible” that the new span can open on time.
California Transportation Committee Executive Director Andre Boutros said the problem with the batch of 2008 bolts is being fixed by installing large steel saddles. He said they will perform the equivalent clamping force as the original bolt design in holding down the shear keys on the new eastern span, which were designed to prevent swaying during an earthquake.
Repeating what he has said at previous briefings on the issue, Heminger said transportation officials feel an urgency to fix the bolt problem and open the new span as soon as possible because the whole idea behind the new eastern span is to make the Bay Bridge seismically safe after it was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
He said, “Our biggest challenge is that we live in earthquake country and the current bridge could fail” in the event of a big earthquake.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News