Major Bay Bridge construction delay

September 5, 2009 12:15:07 PM PDT
Construction work that has closed the Bay Bridge for the Labor Day weekend suffered a setback Friday. There is now a five-hour delay in the critical first phase of the project. The work that Caltrans had hoped would begin at 1:00 p.m. Friday did not begin until after 5:00 p.m.

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The project is now in its 23rd hour, and Caltrans is confident Friday's setback will not threaten the reopening of the bridge scheduled for 5:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Caltrans experienced three separate delays Friday, all surprises in the process, and all have been resolved.

Work continued furiously on the old span Friday, but it took longer than expected to get everything ready for it to be cut, lifted and rolled out of place.

"What we're trying to do is take the spring out of the system, so when we do cut it free, it doesn't snap like a rubber band," said Caltrans resident engineer Bill Casey.

Casey says the old bridge is made up of sections that rely on each other to stay stable. When the one span is pulled out, that will cause another to fall, unless it is tied back to the one behind it. That tying back process took longer than expected.

"I mean, you're freeing a truss that's been sitting there for 70 years. That's a tough thing to do. Very complicated, you got to go step A, then step B, then step C," said Casey. "Go slow and do it safe."

Workers also had trouble freeing pins holding the bridge section in place. After that and the tie-back work was done, there's still another big challenge before the old span gets rolling.

"Now we get into the issue of breaking the old bearings out which again is an unknown, it's going to take some time. So our schedule to pick it up and move it is a rough schedule because we just have not done that before," said Casey.

Caltrans got started sooner than expected Thursday night. It took only 21 minutes to clear the bridge of traffic, and overnight, work stayed an hour and a half ahead of schedule.

But the delay in moving the old section has taken back that time, and more. Still, Caltrans has built in an extra day of pad time to deal with just these kinds of surprises.

"Just like 2007 we got out to a great start. In the beginning, demolition's proven to be a little challenging, but we've got s lot of time in our schedule," said Bart Ney with Caltrans.

Despite the bridge's closure Friday, it appears most commuters did not have a difficult time getting around. Bridge officials reported an extra 2,500 cars using the Golden Gate Bridge Friday morning, compared to the Friday before Labor Day last year.

Thousands of commuters turned to BART and the ferries to get them into the city, but not in huge numbers. BART ridership for the morning commute was 10,00 people higher than last Friday.

There were some delays at the ticket machines, but most riders said the trains actually seemed less full than normal, and certainly not as busy as most had expected.

People who took the ferries from Oakland and Alameda said they were pleased with their experience getting across the bay.

Overall, ferry ridership from the East Bay into San Francisco was up 5 to 10 percent from a typical Friday commute. The Vallejo ferries reported an increase of 66 percent" in their first two runs of the morning.

East Bay BART stations open 24 hours:
Concord
El Cerrito del Norte
Walnut Creek
Downtown Berkeley
MacArthur
Oakland City Center
Bay Fair
Coliseum/Oakland Airport
Dublin/Pleasanton

SF and Peninsula BART stations open 24 hours: Embarcadero
Powell Street
24th Street Mission
Daly City
SFO Airport

MORE:

Watch our live web cam of the Bay Bridge Labor Day weekend construction.

For more information about the Bay Bridge closure during the Labor Day weekend, check out our resources page.

For transit options, visit www.511.org/baybridge

For the latest on the Bay Bridge construction project, visit baybridgeinfo.org

Follow updates on the bridge closure on Twitter at twitter.com/BayBridgeInfo

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