Maze mend appears to be ahead of schedule 

After enduring congested detours and longer commutes, Bay Area drivers may soon have something to smile about: The eastbound Interstate 580 overpass destroyed in an explosion is scheduled to reopen a week from today — just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The emergency-construction company hired to rebuild the overpass has pledged to reopen the heavily traveled freeway 34 days before the June 27 deadline set by the state. Initial reports said the freeway would open May 24, but officials are now saying it will be May 25.

Under its contract with Caltrans, which oversees state highways, if Rancho Cordova-based C.C. Myers Inc. reopens I-580 next week, it will receive $867,075 for the project, plus a $5 million bonus for completing the project before June 27. Caltrans agreed to pay the company $200,000 for every day shaved off the deadline, up to $5 million, which would require a June 2 completion.

The company, however, decided to challenge itself, officials said.

"There was a capped bonus here, but the reality was that there was nothing capping us from doing the fastest and best job that we could, so why not?" C.C. Myers Inc. spokeswoman Linda Clifford said.

Caltrans will continue to close the portion of southbound Interstate 880 below the overpass from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night so that C.C. Myers Inc. can continue rapidly building the structure overhead.

On April 29, a gasoline tanker traveling southbound on I-880 crashed into a guardrail, causing a massive fire that collapsed the I-580 overpass above. The incident shut down two freeways of the heavily traveled MacArthur Maze, used by 75,000 drivers each weekday. The portion of southbound I-880 reopened to traffic May 7, nine days after the collision. While many commuters flocked to BART, which has continued to run extended service, plenty of othershave been using congested detours on Oakland city streets.

This week, C.C. Myers Inc. workers began connecting the two ends of I-580 with steel beams, or girders, and expect to finish placing all 12 beams by Sunday.

"The next step will be the steel rebar — that’s part of the deck. It’s steel rods laid down and tied together like a cage," Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said. "When that’s in place, you can start pouring concrete."

The 200 cubic yards of concrete workers will pour will take 48 to 72 hours to cure, Clifford said.

arocha@examiner.com

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