Steel for new Bay Bridge span arrives from China

January 21, 2010 7:37:54 PM PST
There was a long delay, but the first shipment of steel for the new Bay Bridge suspension span arrived from China Thursday and soon the work will begin.

The future Bay Bridge was strapped onto a ship and docked at the Port of Oakland after a long journey from Shanghai. Soon, the process of putting this architectural puzzle together will begin.

"Probably within the three weeks we will start the process of actually erecting this bridge," Caltrans spokesperson Bart Ney said.

The eight deck sections will connect the new Bay Bridge suspension span's east and westbound decks.

A giant crane does the heavy lifting, loading the steel pieces from the ship to a barge. Each deck piece gets moved into place one at a time, transferred from the barge and onto a temporary bridge before being moved permanently into place.

That transfer takes 8-12 hours per section, but that is rapid time compared to the time it took to get the shipment here. It took 22 days to move 68,000 tons of steel across the Pacific to the Bay Area.

The shipment actually arrived in the Bay Area Wednesday, but the storm kept it about 40 miles off the coast for an extra day. But that is nothing compared to the year long delay in China after inspectors found fault with some of the welding work.

"This isn't the type of bridge you build once in a lifetime, this is the type of bridge you build once," Ney said.

There will be more inspections in the days to come and soon drivers will begin to see this puzzle come together.

"The new Bay Bridge east span cost is being split roughly 60-40 between all Bay Area toll payers and the State of California," Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesperson John Goodwin said.

If all goes according to schedule the new span will open to westbound traffic in 2013 and eastbound traffic the following year.