Repair work continues on Bay Bridge

November 1, 2009 12:15:41 PM PST
Caltrans still will not commit to an opening time for the Bay Bridge, but crews are getting closer.

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Construction teams were working away, hoping to make some serious head way Saturday by getting most of the work done. After that, structural testing can begin. The focus is on getting four crucial tie rods into place. Crews started cutting and grinding them Friday and have not stopped. The rods need to align perfectly.

Engineers blame metal fatigue, vibration and the wind for Tuesday's collapse, when two rods and a cross beam fell onto the upper deck. If the rods do not fit into their fastener just right, vibration and movement could still occur.

"That has taken a while and its challenging because the workers that are doing it are in man baskets 120 feet in the air with grinders and are fitting their hands in there," explained Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.

Once the rods are aligned, tensioning and testing can finally take place.

"We still have a lot of work in front of us," Ney said. "The tensioning has to happen, then all the enhancements have to be put in place. Then, when that is completed we have to clean up and step away."

That is when third-party inspectors, some from the Federal Highway Administration, will step in and conduct their own tests. In the meantime, other public transportation agencies are stepping up their service. BART added overnight hourly service to 14 stations Friday night and ferry service also increased. The loss of the Bay Bridge is forcing commuters to find alternate routes to the city, something drivers are getting tired of doing.

"It usually takes me, probably 15 minutes if I drive," said Glendolyn Fite of Oakland.

"It takes longer to get to San Francisco Airport. I normally on a day like this, you get there in 25 minutes and now it's over an hour or so. So, youg ot to get up earlier, got to pack earlier and those sort of things," said John Gibbons, also of Oakland.

BART will once again run hourly overnight trainsSaturday night, but that will end Sunday evening when BART has to shut down for mandatory maintenance before the Monday morning commute.

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