Damaged Bay Bridge tower to cost millions to repair

Overseas Reymar oil tanker (photo courtesy the Metropolitan Transportation Committee)
January 9, 2013 5:54:43 PM PST
The cost of repairing the damage to the Bay Bridge tower bumper guard, hit by an oil tanker, is a lot higher than first expected. The agency that oversees the bridge says those repairs could cost millions.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (MTC) the cost is between two and three million dollars, a lot more than what they anticipated.

The MTC distributed new photos on Wednesday showing the inside of the fender system that helped protect one of the towers of the Bay Bridge after it was hit by the oil tanker "Overseas Reymar." While the fender system was damaged, the tower itself was not.

On Monday, former Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney told reporters the system did what it was supposed to do, "There is no structural damage to the Bay Bridge as a result, and we will not have to do any work on the bridge other than to repair the collision with the fender system."

But the MTC now says it will cost an estimated two to three million dollars to repair the damage. Why so much? The MTC says the fender is expensive to fix because the tower is hard to access and special equipment must be brought in to repair it.

The MTC has the money in reserve to cover the costs but it will try to collect the money from the tanker's owner.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues with one key player joining in. Barry Strauch of the National Transportation Safety Board officially began his investigation to try to determine if human error is to blame for Monday's accident.

"It usually take some time, about 18 months before we actually determine the cause but we are starting out investigation and at this point we are collecting as much data as we can," said Strauch in a phone interview.

The NTSB report on the November 2007 Cosco Busan accident, in which 53,000 gallons of oil poured into the San Francisco Bay, did not come out until May 2009, 18 months later. The bar pilot in that case was found to be on prescription medications. Poor communication was also determined to be a factor.

The Coast Guard and NTSB may produce their own separate reports on the Overseas Reymar incident. This investigation may not be as complex, but it is still possible that exactly what happened might not be known for a long time.

On Wednesday morning a representative of the Marshall Islands Ship and Corporate Registry was transported from Alameda to the oil tanker. The "Overseas Reymar" has a Marshall Islands flag and that person was said to be there to examine the vessel.

The ship has been anchored in the Bay after hitting that tower of the Bay Bridge. Oil did not leak into the Bay.

On Wednesday we told you the pilot maneuvering the tanker at the time had three previous accidents. We're also told that the investigator of the NTSB will make himself available, perhaps Thursday, to the press to give an informational update.


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