Heavy lifting begins on Bay Bridge


Work crews are beginning to transfer the weight of the bridge onto its suspension cables. Over the next several weeks, the eastern span of the bridge is going to be connected to its steel suspenders and hoisted off the temporary sub-structure that's been supporting it up until now.

"We're going to be pulling them down, putting them into place, and we're going to be using jacks," said bridge engineer Brian Maroney, who walked reporters through the process.

As the suspenders are attached and tightened, they will pull the bridge off its temporary supports, which will be removed. As that's happening, the main cable will be tightened at the west end of the span, and it'll actually move more than 30 feet as it's set in place and takes on the weight of the 35,000-ton span.

"That 35,000-ton number -- that's like almost five Eiffel Towers," said bridge spokesman Bart Ney.

Ney was happy to talk about the load shifting. But the most expensive public works project in California history has been in the news lately over a Sacramento Bee investigation into falsified construction inspection reports.

When asked about that, Maroney deferred. "First of all you have to remember my perspective, I'm a technical engineer, that's what I do," he said, adding that he's satisfied with the technical engineering.

As for the alleged malfeasance of Cal Trans construction inspectors, a peer review panel has okayed the project and another review is underway.

And bridge spokesman Ney declined to answer further questions about that. "We stand behind the Bay Bridge. The Bay Bridge is safe. We're ready to move forward and we're moving forward."

At issue is the integrity of the central tower's concrete foundation. On Monday state senate transportation leaders called for a seismic review. The Federal Highway Administration is conducting a review, and in a preliminary report the feds criticized Cal Trans for knowing four years ago that an inspector was doctoring data but failed to take action.

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