Bay Bridge repair was 'short-term fix'


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Brackets were put into place to shore up steel rods and help patch a crack in a support beam. Caltrans officials announced Monday afternoon that the repairs that went on all weekend were just a "short-term fix." They said they will spend the next several months trying to come up with a better design, what they called a "long-term solution."

In the meantime, they say the repairs done most recently are better than the ones done before.

"We are in the process of opening the bridge right now," Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said Monday morning.

Those were the words Bay Area commuters longed to hear after five long days, as the first drivers headed over the newly-repaired Bay Bridge just before 9:00 Monday morning.

"I think it bears repeating to the public that the Bay Bridge itself remains safe," California Secretary of Transportation Dale Bonner said Monday. "It was safe when we started this effort and it remains safe today for the traveling public."

The reopening comes after a weekend of tedious fine-tuning of four steel rods that are at the center of the bridge repair. The assembly passed a series of stress tests overnight designed to determine how it would perform during high winds or extensive vibration from bridge traffic.

"We've also put in tethers and straps around the assembly," said Caltrans engineer Rick Land. "If a tie rod does happen to fail again, nothing's going to fall down onto traffic."

Unlike the previous Labor Day repair, this fix comes with more-frequent inspections and a high-tech monitoring system.

"We have a system of strain gauges that will be monitored regularly to detect any problems as they occur in the future," said Bonner.

The opening did not come too soon for those who rely on the bridge for their daily commute.

"It's been very challenging, sometimes taking an hour-and-a-half to get to work from Berkeley. So, going around two bridges, not fun," said commuter Scott McCoy.

Thurman Owens told ABC7, "Overall I think it's good that it's open. I mean, they took the time do it safely so the rest of us can feel safer driving across it."

Once Caltrans comes up with their design for a long-term fix they will announce another Bay Bridge closure. They are hoping to make it like the one over Labor Day weekend which was planned well ahead of time. They also hope to make it as short as possible.

Despite the opening of the Bay Bridge, BART says it will still run longer trains throughout the evening to help commuters get home on time Monday night. Transbay ridership on BART was up 85 percent compared to a typical Monday morning commute. More than 71,000 people took BART across the bay, about 33,000 more people than usual.

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