The scheduled Labor Day opening of the new Bay Bridge is still up in the air, but officials say they at least have a date for when that will be decided.
Safety checks of the new eastern span are ongoing following the discovery of a batch of broken steel bolts in March, and July 10 has been slated as the drop-dead date for when the opening date will be determined.
Before then, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, state agencies that own and operate the bridge, respectively, need to compile a report on how 32 bolts became cracked as a result of hydrogen embrittlement — a destructive phenomenon that is somewhat common in steel.
Second, officials will have to determine if a retrofit solution for the broken bolts can be completed by Labor Day. Last, engineers will have to finish metallurgical testing of unbroken bolts in the span to determine if they could end up with the same fate as the cracked ones. Those tests, scheduled to be completed next month, will be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration and a three-person peer-review panel.
After discovering the broken bolts, officials from the MTC and Caltrans initially said they would be fixed in time for the long-planned Labor Day opening. Since then, they have repeatedly set dates for when they would be able to confirm the opening of the bridge, only to delay those answers.
On Wednesday, during a meeting of the Bay Area Toll Authority, the regional group that oversees the bridge, MTC Director Steve Heminger said that by his agency’s July 10 meeting, officials will be able to give definitive answers on when the rebuilt span will open.
Several toll authority commissioners urged bridge officials not to rush to meet the Labor Day goal. While Heminger said engineers would not be hasty, he emphasized the importance of that date. Crews have shut down traffic successfully on that holiday weekend three times before, and weather begins to become inclement after that weekend.
“If we lose this date, I fear we’re not going to get another one back,” Heminger said.