Nighttime traffic jams will delay Bay Bridge commuters throughout the holiday season, as Caltrans closes lanes to replace repairs to a cracked support beam.
Though a portion of the nearly 280,000 drivers who use the span on a typical weekday will be affected by the partial overnight closures, the latest repair to the eastern section of the span will avoid the complete shutdown that was originally planned.
Caltrans, the state agency that oversees bridge operations, on Monday urged motorists to consider using other Bay Area bridges at night to avoid delays that are scheduled to begin this weekend and continue for at least three weeks. The overnight repairs will depend on weather conditions, according to Caltrans.
Three of the five westbound lanes and one eastbound lane will close on the eastern span at various times, expected between 10 p.m. and
10 a.m., Caltrans documents show. The agency also may need to close lanes at future dates for five weeks.
The lane closures will allow Caltrans and its contractors to replace a trouble-plagued repair to a cracked eyebar, which was discovered during a scheduled bridge closure Labor Day weekend.
The original repair — completed Labor Day weekend — was hurriedly drafted, and its flawed design caused pieces of steel to plummet onto the roadway Oct. 27 during high winds. The damage led to a nearly weeklong bridge closure that hampered hundreds of thousands of commuters’ travel.
That second repair, which features steel rods that carry the weight load the damaged eyebar was supposed to support, was characterized by Caltrans as a short-term fix.
The new repair will see the damaged eyebar section cut out of the bridge and replaced. After that’s replaced, the current repair pieces will be removed. Then, Caltrans will monitor the work to determine whether an additional eyebar needs to be incorporated into the design, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said.
“The new repair will have more than enough capacity to carry the load designed for the original eyebar,” he said. “It will not necessarily be as strong, given that holes and bolts have been driven through the remaining steel portion of the bar. In this case, though, this repair may actually be stronger than the individual eyebar if it’s determined to have had a flaw in its original fabrication.”
The repair effort will cost California up to $14 million, and it will be undertaken by the same joint-venture team that is building a self-anchored suspension bridge to help replace the Bay Bridge’s seismically vulnerable eastern span, Ney said.
The joint venture, between Fluor and American Bridge, only had limited involvement in earlier eyebar repair efforts.
The Bay Bridge eastern span replacement project is facing further delays that could jeopardize Caltrans’ plans to open it by 2013.
The estimated cost to replace the seismically unsound eastern span has ballooned from $2.6 billion in 1997 to as much as
$8.6 billion, as repeated delays have plagued the project.
Orders of steel needed to build a suspension bridge section are more than a year behind schedule, and the first of eight shipments is expected to leave Shanghai this month, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said Monday.
Ney said Caltrans is aiming to open the new span in 2013, but that date could be pushed back if later shipments are delayed.
“The overall process of design and fabrication” is delaying steel orders and shipments, he said. “There are a number of working drawings that have to be completed in order to do fabrication on some of the most complex parts of the bridge.”
Welding and fabricating the complicated steel pieces has proved challenging, Ney said.
“Welds are part of it, but you can’t honestly say that welding is delaying this,” he said.
Westbound (upper deck)
Three lanes to close
Sunday-Thursday nights: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Friday nights: 11 p.m. to
Saturday nights: 11:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Eastbound (lower deck)
One lane to close
Sunday-Thursday nights: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Friday nights: 11 p.m. to
Saturday nights: 11:30 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Officials warn that times are subject to change.
Source: Caltrans fact sheet