Repairs on the Bay Bridge were expected to be complete by 10 p.m. Thursday and a bevy of independent inspectors were assembled to sign off on the work to avoid future blunders that closed the span and stranded hundreds of thousands commuters for days.
After a cable snapped Tuesday that had been hastily fixed to support a cracked bar during the Labor Day weekend closure, bridge officials have been exceedingly careful about reopening the span.
The Federal Highway Administration and the state Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel were each expected to do independent, overnight inspections of the repaired metal bar, called an eyebar.
“It’s like kicking tires on a car. They want to see the system complete. They want to see it in place. They want to take a look at how it vibrates,” Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said.
Randy Iwasaki — director of Caltrans, which oversees the bridge — assured the public that the span will not reopen until it has been determined to be safe.
To avoid the reoccurrence of an emergency closure, the bridge will continue to undergo rigorous inspections. Caltrans will continue to close two lanes every Saturday to look at the repair, in addition to a portion of the 1,680 eyebars on the eastern portion of the span.
Ney said Caltrans officials followed all protocols for repairing the eyebar during the Labor Day weekend closure and weekly maintenance inspections have taken place.
But he also said Caltrans failed to account for wind impacts when designing the repair.
The recently installed saddle and cable-entwined rods that supported it somehow came loose Tuesday, as the bridge was battered by strong winds. Meteorologist Dan Gudgel of the National Weather Service said gusts of about 30 mph were felt in Oakland and at San Francisco International Airport around that time.
“Wind is something that should have been accounted for. Something should have been done to dampen the vibrations,” Ney said.
Caltrans said several enhancements to the original repair were being added to the bridge, but for the most part the agency is sticking to its original design. Ney said the crack in the eyebar has not grown larger as a result of Tuesday’s incident.
Approximately 437,200 passengers squeezed onto BART trains Wednesday, shattering the transit system’s ridership record.
Judging by Thursday’s morning commute, that record will be beat — again.
As uncertainty about the reopening of the Bay Bridge lingered Thursday morning, BART experienced a 60 percent increase in ridership, up from 50 percent Wednesday.
About 88,000 commuters traveled on the transit system Thursday morning. On a typical Thursday, that number is 55,000, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. Before Wednesday, BART’s highest-volume day was Sept. 8, 2008, when 405,400 people rode trains.
Since Caltrans recommended travelers make alternate plans for Thursday evening’s commute, more people would likely ride BART than ever before, Johnson said.
Bottlenecks choked every alternative path to The City. At the height of the commute at 8:30 a.m., traffic was delayed an additional 33 minutes on Highway 37 from Vallejo to Novato; 8 minutes on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge; and 33 minutes on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
On the southbound Golden Gate Bridge, traffic flowed well and all toll booths were open. But once drivers reached San Francisco, they faced heavy congestion and driving speeds of 17 mph.
— Tamara Barak Aparton
Timeline of recent repairs and malfunctions on the Bay Bridge:
Thursday, Sept. 3, evening: Bridge shuts down during Labor Day weekend to allow planned work on replacement span
Saturday, Sept. 5, afternoon: Caltrans discovers dangerous crack in load-bearing eyebar
Sunday, Sept. 6, afternoon: Steel parts for eyebar repairs arrive from Arizona
Monday, Sept. 7, morning: Caltrans discovers the parts don’t fit together properly and orders an additional part as a makeshift solution
Monday, Sept. 7, evening:
New part arrives from Oakland and is placed in position
Tuesday, Sept. 8, morning: Bay Bridge reopens several hours behind schedule
Tuesday, Oct. 27, afternoon: Several steel repair parts fall onto bridge during peak traffic time, as strong winds cause vibrations that shake pieces loose
Tuesday, Oct. 27, evening: Caltrans closes bridge “indefinitely” for safety reasons and inspects damage
Wednesday, Oct. 28, morning: Caltrans blames strong winds for fallen repair parts and says those parts will be put back in position and reinforced
Wednesday, Oct. 28, evening: Caltrans announces several repair enhancements to better protect against wind gusts
Thursday, Oct. 29, morning: Caltrans announces bridge will not reopen in time for Friday morning commute
Thursday, Oct. 29, evening: Caltrans announces repairs could be completed by 10 p.m., but tests will be performed before bridge reopens