Bay Bridge Dowager Shows Her Age

We’ve been spellbound by the Oakland Bay Bridge construction this weekend, and the bridge is definitely showing her age.  During the full-bridge inspection of the Eastern Span, Caltrans engineers discovered an I-Bar crack, and are running at warp speed to fix this support structure problem.

Caltrans Morning Briefing

Mike Fornier, Caltrans principal construction engineer, explained “the crack we discovered is significant, it’s visual from the ground, and it’s about 100 feet in the air.”  There are eight I-Bars, so the other seven have taken up the load but still…this is a serious problem.

The 73-year-old piece has rusted out and must be fixed right now.  The crack is far away from the current bridge bypass and is thoroughly unrelated to this bypass construction.  Caltrans believes the crack developed during the past few months, but could have been related to original weaknesses in the metal.

This morning, we all learned the bridge would have been closed to fix this problem alone!  Of course, the engineering cognoscenti got to work immediately:  a design plan was developed; materials were ordered; and parts are now getting fabricated.  Engineers are awaiting deliveries, and a 10-man crew is ready to make the repairs.

Yes, Caltrans is committed to completing this as quickly as possible.  But we can’t help but think this sounds like one of those TV design shows with a deadline.  Will this get fixed by Tuesday morning at 5am?  In this case, fixing it matters more than making it pretty in time.

P.S.  The good news is the Oakland Bay Bridge bypass has been successful, and final joints are getting installed there.  “The 3600-ton segment was set down within a half-inch tolerance,” said Caltrans Spokesman Bart Ney, “right on the money.”

September 8th update: The bridge opened around 6:30am this morning, congrats to Caltrans.
October 27th update: The bridge closed again at 8:00pm, when part of the fix fell down (more here).

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