Final countdown begins for the new Bay Bridge

September 3, 2012 8:35:52 PM PDT
The countdown is on to the opening of the new Bay Bridge. One year from today, the new eastern span should be carrying traffic for the first time.

Lest they forget the goal, Caltrans has posted a clock in its bridge construction office counting down this last year to the second.

"Without a doubt a year feels very, very short here, for a number of reasons," Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney said. "One, we still have a lot of work to do, we feel pretty confident we'll be able to get it done. But for some of us this has been almost an entire career. Some people have been here 15 years, you know, me."

The biggest last project to get through is the load transfer -- transferring weight off of the scaffolding and onto the single, self-anchored cable. That three-phase project is underway now and should be done in November.

There's so much work going on daily on the bridge right now that Caltrans says it is not a good time for curious boaters to take a look from below because they could get hit by something falling off. Caltrans has asked the coastguard to increase patrols.

Top-secret planning is in the works for a public celebration Labor Day weekend next year.

"All we can say right now is that we're going to try to do something that harkens back to what was done originally for this bridge," Ney said. "There was a huge celebration for the opening of the original Bay Bridge. There were two presidents involved, a gigantic processional across the span, there was an amazing light show."

The bridge is on track to open Sept. 3, 2013.

"It's possible that we miss the day because this bridge...first and foremost, it's got to be safe," Ney said. "If we're trending longer with load transfer, for example, then we might have to push that date out. But we believe right now that we can hit it. The other thing is, if we do really well, we will pull this date back and we'll open early."

Opening of the new span will not be the end of things. After a short pause, Caltrans will begin the demolition of the old bridge, which is expected to take six to eight months.


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