Bolt problem on bike path of new Bay Bridge

May 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's another problem on the Bay Bridge. More bolts are failing. This time it's on the new Bay Bridge's bike path.

Caltrans' Bay Bridge spokesman told ABC7 News that this problem was discovered well over a year ago and has already been repaired. He said the bike path railing is bolted into the path itself in such a way to allow for expansion and contraction by a matter of millimeters, depending on the weather. What happened was a protective cap was not welded properly, which caused that cap to break.

Caltrans says that cap has been fixed and the issue has been resolved. They added that they would take us out there to take a look at it for ourselves on Wednesday. On Tuesday night we were under the bridge to take a look at a much bigger problem.

Caltrans resident engineer William Casey explained how to spot a broken bolt. He said there's a gap between the bottom of the nut and the surface plate. The good bolts are flush, but the broken ones popped up after being tensioned in March -- that's when 32 out of a set of 96 cracked.

Now the site of the broken bolts is being prepared for a retrofit. For that, side-by-side rectangular spaces have just been cut out of the concrete where a steel saddle will sit on top of the bolts. It will then be cinched down and held tight by high strength steel wires that thread through the saddle and wrap under and around the concrete pier cap.

The concrete is being cored to allow threading of the steel strands. And the rectangular indentations will help make a tight connection with new concrete when it's poured to encase the saddle cinching strands. There is no firm timeline for completing the prep-work and fabricating the steel saddle.

"You know, everyone asks that question, but it's awfully hard to tell you right now," said Casey.

Caltrans says so far, none of the 2,300 similar bolts has shown any signs of breaking. An update on testing and retrofit will happen at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, who is in charge of the new bridge, had hoped to be able to tell us on Wednesday whether or not the new bridge would open as scheduled on Labor Day Weekend, but now Caltrans is saying that's looking very unlikely. Caltrans would rather wait until the results of its testing is complete and also the review by the Federal Highway Administration.


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