Maze set to reopen Friday 

Commuters can expect the eastbound Interstate 580 overpass that was destroyed in a fire last month to reopen for the Friday morning commute, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday.

Workers from Rancho Cordova-based C.C. Myers Inc. have worked round-the-clock to rebuild and open the overpass just 26 days after one of the worst vehicle-related explosions in Bay Area history. The emergency-construction company had until June 27, the deadline set by the state, but officials said the company wanted a challenge.

"That is much earlier than everybody thought," said Bob Haus, a spokesman for Caltrans, which oversees highways in the state. "This is really good news for Bay Area commuters."

C.C. Myers Inc. had financial incentive to complete the job before the deadline. Under the contract with Caltrans, the company would receive an additional $200,000 for each day the project was completed before deadline, up to $5 million. The company will receive $867,075 for the project, plus the entire $5 million bonus, Haus said.

To reopen the I-580 overpass, workers repaired the two damaged columns, attached a massive beam atop the columns and installed 12 steel girders to close the gap between the two ends of the interstate.

On Sunday, workers poured 200 cubic yards of concrete, which will take 96 hours to cure, Haus said. Today, barriers made of concrete and steel rebar will be installed.

On April 29, a gasoline tanker traveling southbound on Interstate 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 damaged portion of southbound I-880 reopened to traffic May 7, nine days after the collision. Caltrans fast-tracked a series of tests on the I-880 concrete to determine that the freeway suffered only minimal damage. Eight California Highway Patrol officers escorted the first wave of cars over the highway, and traffic has resumed as normal, officials said.

While many commuters used to traveling on I-580 continued to endure congested detours on Oakland city streets, many others flocked to BART, which has continued to run extended service.

When I-580 reopens, BART spokesman Linton Johnson doesn’t expect a dramatic drop in riders. The transit agency experienced a major spike in ridership in the days after the crash, and while that has waned a bit since, there are still more people using the trains than before.

On Friday, the agency expected to serve about 331,000 riders, but instead carried about 370,000 people, a 12 percent hike.

"I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’re not going lose the additional riders, maybe a few thousand, but I think people want to give their cars a vacation," Johnson said. "They’re finding out that it’s easier and cheaper to take BART."

arocha@examiner.com

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