Questions about repairs could delay opening of Bay Bridge 

click to enlarge Cracks, likely due to the presence of hydrogen, have been found in dozens of bolts on the Bay Bridge’s new span. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Cracks, likely due to the presence of hydrogen, have been found in dozens of bolts on the Bay Bridge’s new span.

With a solution for repairing several dozen broken stabilizing rods potentially still months away, Bay Bridge officials conceded Wednesday that they may not meet their Labor Day weekend deadline for opening the rebuilt eastern span.

Last month, inspectors discovered 32 fractured steel rods — used to bolster and connect the span’s pier towers with its bridge deck — likely because of the destabilizing presence of hydrogen in the material. Removing the material is impossible due to the alignment of the rods, which were manufactured by an Ohio-based company in 2008. Engineers are working on a retrofit to buttress the cracked beams, which are supposed to shore up the bridge in the case of seismic activity.

Stephen Maller, an engineer with the California Transportation Commission and part of an oversight body devising a fix for the broken rods, said it could take weeks or even a few months before a solution is found. He said the oversight committee is looking at three to four alternatives, including one that would involve attaching a steel harness around the affected area. But nothing has been finalized yet.

“We’re still very much in the conceptual phases,” Maller said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional body that oversees the span.

The rebuilt eastern span of the Bay Bridge, a project delayed for years by political squabbles, is currently scheduled to open Labor Day weekend as part of a $9 million celebration.

However, Steve Heminger, executive director of the MTC and another member of the oversight committee, said the search for an appropriate repair could put that date in doubt.

“We don’t know what the solution is yet, so we don’t know the schedule and we don’t know the budget,” said Heminger, who dismissed media reports that a $1 million fix had been identified. “Based on the four or so options we have now, we think we’re going to be OK with the schedule, but until we figure that out, we can’t give you a guarantee.”

He said engineers are still determining whether the hydrogen leaked into the material during manufacturing or as a result of rainwater on the bridge. He added that officials are still determining whether the 192 other steel rods on the span need to be removed, even though they have revealed no structural flaws.

Despite scheduling opening-day events for Labor Day weekend that are expected to attract more than 100,000 people, members of the MTC expressed support for pushing back the celebration if necessary.

“We need to give this oversight committee the time necessary to solve a problem of this magnitude,” MTC board member Bill Dodd said. “If it means moving the bridge date back, that’s what it means.”

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