SF-Oakland Bay Bridge marks final major milestone


Workers high above the bay have been putting outer layers of protection on the main cable. That single main cable has got a lot riding on it, a whole section of the new bridge, in fact. Starting on the East side, the cable drapes up and over the 525-foot tower then down into the deck, looping around, back up, and down again, anchoring into the deck itself.

Until now, the 32,500-ton weight of the roadway was resting on scaffolding. Now, that load has been transferred to the main cable and suspender cables. A combination of hydraulic jacks and hands-on human workers pulled the strands into place, lifting the deck off the scaffolding. The process started in August, was just completed, and produced a collective sigh of relief for the engineers.

"There was never any question that the bridge would hold itself up. The question was when they picked it up, would they pick it up right the first time or would we need to be tuning it and tuning it and tuning it?" MTC Executive Director Steve Hemminger said. That fear was unfounded in this case and now they're in the home stretch of more mundane, but not be underestimated projects.

According to their own countdown clock, there are 286 days left to get it done. "The one thing that we're most worried about is the million things on our punch list," Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said. To protect the cable from corrosion, first, the wires are galvanized. Then, it's wrapped in a zinc-based paste. After that, an interlocking s-wire is wrapped around it that way water won't get in and hopefully, it will last 150 years or more.

"We can smell the finish line now and we're going to put the pedal to the metal and get this new bridge open to traffic as quickly as we possibly can next year," Hemminger said. Soon the temporary scaffolding will be gone and the bridge will look more and more like the finished product.

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