Caltrans speeds up Bay Bridge construction after steel delays

On Friday, a 1,100-ton, 170-foot-long piece of roadway was lifted and then lowered into place. Soon it will be slid along a conveyer and coupled to the other sections.

"As these pieces are bolted, welded and also post-tensioned, we will run a steel cable through them to make sure they connect to become one bridge," says Bay Bridge spokesman Bart Ney.

Ney says 75 percent of the steel for the new Bay Bridge is domestic, but critical elements like the roadway steel and main cable are from China, where fabrication delays threatened to put the project behind by more than a year. However, Ney says the logjam in China has been broken and now it's matter of accelerating the production schedule.

"Right now all the shipments have been meeting the schedules we set for them, after we've gone through that phase where there were some challenges in fabrication, the team worked really well through them and are working towards getting some of that time back right now," says Ney.

Blue coverings protect row upon row of steel coils from China that will make up the bridge's main cable.

A test coil shows what you'd find underneath the plastic, eventually the 5 mm wires -- 17,000 of them -- will be grouped into strands and then compacted together to form the main cable. A pulley system will assemble the cable up on the new bridge.

"We'll use the skyway to stage it. We'll build a footbridge that will match the geometry of the cable and then we'll also erect a tramway, not unlike a ski lift, that will pull each stand along and put the cable in place," says Ney.

Steel saddles from Japan are already here, waiting to guide the main cable around the bridge.

A Caltrans animation shows what the finished product will look like in 2013 if it comes in on schedule.

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