The bridge was originally scheduled to be closed for four days. Friday night, a segment of roadway the size of a football field was cut away and moved aside. On Saturday, a replacement segment was moved in to serve as a three to four-year detour. But as that was taking place, Caltrans found a 6-inch crack in a support beam that threatened the bridge's integrity.
Caltrans did build an entire extra day of pad time into its construction schedule to deal with surprises along the way, but that will not be enough time to deal with repairs on the cracked i-beam.
Work on the cracked beam has not stopped since it was discovered Saturday. The crack in the eastern cantilever appeared some time since the last federally mandated inspection in 2007.
Steel saddles were fabricated in Arizona and delivered Sunday afternoon. Caltrans says they are developing the repair plan and testing the materials and the bridge as they go, moment to moment. Crews are working under very difficult conditions at 150 feet in the air in order to execute these repairs.
Working under these deadlines, on a surprise of this magnitude, is being described as monumental.
"Although the repair is somewhat standard, the difficulty comes from the fact that it was designed on the moment," said Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney. "We're test-fitting it as we go."
"We're going to have to ask the rest of the Bay area, the public, to be a partner and to join the team, and to be patient because we aren't able to open the bridge when we had expected to," said Steve Heminger with the Bay Area Toll Authority.
"Headlines tomorrow ought to be that we made this thing work," said Bob Alvarado with the California Transportation Commission. "Secondary headline ought to be that we have some other problems facing us on the bridge."
That other problem is huge, and is stealing all of the attention. The crack inspectors found is so significant, it would have been reason enought to close the bridge for repairs.
Engineers say i-beams are prone to fracturing, and that the new Bay Bridge will not have any i-beams.
"When you return to this bridge, it's going to be safer than when you left it," said Randy Iwasaki, director of the California Department of Transportation.
"We're focusing everything we've got to making the repair," said Ney. "Wednesday at 5:00 a.m. is our next target and we're going to do everything we can to meet it."