Caltrans to lift new Bay Bridge tower this week

October 19, 2010 12:00:49 PM PDT
If you're heading over the Bay Bridge Wednesday, you're being warned that there may be a really big distraction. That's because the second tower of the self anchored suspension span is scheduled to be put in place. It's part of the earthquake retrofit being done.

Once just this second section is in place -- the tower will be 272 feet tall, a little more than halfway to its final height.

Bay Bridge drivers often tackle traffic and sometimes get great views of the bay when there's no fog. But they don't usually get the kind of front row view they're going to get beginning Wednesday morning.

Caltrans is cautioning the public ahead of time that crews are beginning the most visible part of the construction to drivers when they install the second set of sections of the massive new self-anchored suspension tower. A computer rendering shows the work that will be done as four sections are hoisted 30 stories into the air and then lowered down and bolted into place.

The pieces are 107 feet tall and each weigh just over a million pounds. What will catch drivers' attention is that these sections are going in right at the same level as the deck heading westbound into San Francisco - so drivers are urged to focus on the road.

"It won't be that close, and it's going to be moving very slowly because we have to control it, but if people gawk at it, it will slow traffic down and it will back things up. We looked at a way to see if we could put in gawk-screen to block it off, but this tower is 525 feet tall and there's really no safe way to block it off," said Bay Bridge spokesperson Bart Ney.

Back in July, Caltrans installed the first section of the tower's legs. Caltrans says this type of four leg tower has never been built this way before -- it's specifically for seismic safety.

Each leg can move independently of each other in an earthquake. The link beams that connect the legs are the only parts designed to crack as they bear the brunt of a quake.

Round-the-clock work begins Wednesday at 4 a.m. and is expected to wrap up on Sunday. The third sections of the tower are expected to arrive in December.


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