Officials to announce Bay Bridge opening date on Thursday

August 13, 2013 11:48:27 PM PDT
There is a chance the new Bay Bridge will now open in time for Labor Day despite the problems with broken bolts and questions about safety.

The opening date is still unknown, but we're closer. The Toll Bridge Oversight Committee will hold a public meeting on Thursday at 10 a.m. at the MetroCenter Auditorium in Oakland, at which time reports will be discussed and the opening date for the new East Span will be announced.

Defective bolts inside the Bay Bridge forced engineers to postpone the Labor Day opening.

However, that all changed after the Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to Caltrans on August 9, saying a temporary fix on the new Bay Bridge is good enough and sees no reason to delay opening the bridge to traffic while the permanent fix is completed.

Their logic on the new bridge is that it should open sooner than later because it's already safer than the old one.

"I think the most important thing is it will be earlier than Dec. 10, but the actual decision made about which weekend has not been made. You need to make sure you can pull it off. And the issue is if we did it on Labor Day that's a pretty short notice. If we did it longer during the month, can we get the right people on the job to do the work? And how many of people's lives are we affecting?" MTC spokesperson Randy Rentschler said.

Officials say the temporary fix involves installing steel plates into the area of the broken bolts to help prevent movement during an earthquake.

As of now, the committee has ruled out a massive public opening ceremony. They plan to keep it fairly modest and say the key is to get the bridge open sooner than later.

Tuesday night Caltrans turned on and tested more than 1,500 lights along the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. They use half the energy of other lights and should last 10-15 years each.

"The lighting builds just as the bridge lifts off the Oakland shore and reaches out to the tower, the light poles increase in height and finally you reach that, if you will, grand finale at the top of the bridge," said Caltrans senior landscape architect Clive Endress.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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