How soon before the San Francisco Bay Bridge re-opens? More importantly, will the fix hold for good this time?
High winds Tuesday night caused a steel cross-beam and two tie rods to snap off and fall to the upper deck, damaging three cars and injuring one person. The three steel pieces were part of an emergency repair made just seven weeks ago during a planned Labor Day expansion project.
An un-forseen crack in a structural beam then, forced that repair... and threatened a possible major delay in the bridge's re-opening. However, the crack was repaired, and thus, swiftly allowed the bridge to re-open...nearly on schedule!
After Tuesday's accident, which caused enormous commute problems throughout the entire North and East Bay Area, Caltrans refused to predict when the Bay Bridge would re-open, though the lead contractor predicted the new repair woud be complete sometime today.
Under intense public scrutiny--and now the eyes of the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans blames high winds and traffic vibration for Tuesday's accident, claiming the repair design was a first-of-its-kind innovation, done on a type of cracked beam never before seen.
"Wind is something that should have been accounted for in that design," Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said Wednesday. "We've identified fatigue as a factor, and our new design should address that."
Still, there are skeptics who believe the initial brace design was an inadequate fix for a 73-year old bridge. UC-Berkeley engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asi said, "They rushed this repair over Labor Day, and now they refuse to acknowledge that it's an incorrect design."
Caltrans officials defended their brace design, claiming they are making vast improvements this time in order to provide additional protection. Meanwhile, Thursday's commute could set new traffic records as drivers crawl along adjacent highways and bridges, and pack into Bart train stations...all hoping that their sacrifices will lead to a FULLY fixed Bay Bridge--once and for all!
One final question. Who is going to pay for the three smashed autos damaged on the bridge, and the medical bills for the woman who was injured? (Just wondering!)
Thanks, and see you on the other side of the bridge.