Seismic saddles in place on new Bay Bridge

After a boat ride out to the middle of the bay, Caltrans took us high above the water, to see the $25 million fix for the new Bay Bridge.

"We're standing underneath the eastbound deck and the seismic device in the middle is where the broken bolts were," said Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon.

Those bolts were encased in concrete, so the only way to fix them was putting clamps around them from the outside. Those clamps, called saddles, took months to produce and now, they're finally in place.

"If there was a major seismic event right now, all these seismic devices, the shear keys and the bearings would work exactly as they're supposed to work," said Gordon.

In a major earthquake, the bridge needs to be able to wiggle and the joints under the bridge are what allow that to happen. The stabilizing devices are what keep the bridge from wiggling too much and they are what contained the broken bolts. So while they were fixing the bridge, they stuck metal shims into the gaps in the joints, to make sure the bridge didn't wiggle more than it was supposed to in the event of an earthquake. Now that the saddles are in place, replacing the bolts, the shims have come out.

Now, all that's left of the shims are a few holes and the saddles -- just like the bolts before them -- are now mostly encased in concrete.

"This, right here, is the concrete blister and inside of that is quite a bit of rebar," said Gordon.

Although the concrete covers up the fix, one prominent politician wants to make sure nobody covers up the root of the problem.

"We just spent $25 million because someone allowed this to happen. And that tells me that somebody's incompetent, they should be held accountable," said St. Sen. Mark Desaulnier, D-Concord.

Desaulnier, who chairs the Transportation and Housing Committee, has launched an investigation. He's looking into allegations the bolts were mishandled and allowed to sit in standing water for months at a time, making them weak enough to crack. There's even concern that other bolts could've been weakened, including the ones at the base of the suspension tower.

Desaulnier says the people paid for the bridge and they deserve to know everything.

"When people make mistakes, we should tell the public. So this is bigger than just the bridge," said Desaulnier.

The Senate probe began last month with at least two more hearings still to come.

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