Debut delay for new Bay Bridge will allow proper scrutiny of bolt issue 

The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will not open until at least December, as crews work to fashion a fix for broken bolts, but this is a good development. The fix needs to be done right even if it means pushing the opening back past the original Labor Day weekend target date.

So far, just 32 bolts on the new span have been found to be defective. The seismic safety rods were installed to hold in place a piece that allows the bridge to move during an earthquake. But exposure to hydrogen caused the bolts to become brittle and crack while being tightened in March.

Now crews are working toward installing a saddle that will do the same job as the bolts. But the $15 million project will take at least three months to complete.

With critics questioning many aspects of the bridge design, including other bolts used on the span, it is key to work in a swift but cautious manner that allows for maximum transparency for oversight bodies. No one wants the repair to be muddled by questions, as the original bolts were.

But the work should not be slow, either, since drivers crossing the Bay need a safe path — the new span was built because a portion of the existing bridge collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

What matters at this point so late in the game is completing the bridge fast enough to get traffic off the old bridge quickly, but not in a rushed manner that could generate further errors.

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