Repairs may be finished in June 

Bay Area commuters can expect the gap in the Interstate 580 connector to be fixed by June 27 — just 59 days after the East Bay roadway collapsed in the aftermath of a fiery gas tanker crash.

The announcement came a day after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the I-880 connector would open within 10 days, thanks to favorable tests negating a complete rebuild of that damaged road. (See detour maps and dozens of photos on Examiner's "San Francisco in Pictures" blog. Watch videos of of the fire and collapse as well as the commute afterward on "San Francisco in Video." )

Early Sunday morning, a gas tanker crashed on the ramp connecting I-80 westbound to I-880 southbound, spilling 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline onto the road. The resulting fire reached 2,750 degrees and collapsed the overhead ramp connecting I-80 eastbound to I-580 eastbound onto the I-880 connector.

Investigators have not assigned blame in the case, but have said skid marks at the accident scene suggest the driver was speeding before the rig overturned and burst into flames.

The damage led to immediate road closures for the two connectors, which carry a combined average of 80,000 drivers through the MacArthur Maze daily and deliver them to the Bay Bridge and various other points around the Bay Area.

The collapse of I-580 causes larger traffic jams because cars back up on to the Bay Bridge while detouring onto Oakland neighborhood streets.

During the repairs to I-580, which are set to begin Tuesday, the I-880 connector will stay open during the day, with some closures to the roadway overnight. During overnight closures, crews will place the much-sought-after steel girders, which essentially hold up the road, and pour concrete.

Crews are currently constructing the bracing on the I-880 connector, which will allow them to lift the road 9 inches and complete the appropriate repaving and surface work, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.

Authorized to spend up to $20 million on the project, Caltrans began advertising bids for the work Thursday as part of Schwarzenegger’s request to fast-track the repairs and will award the contract at the end of Monday.

"We don’t expect the cost to be that high. We want to be sure we have adequate resources ... and that we don’t have to take additional time to secure more money" if needed, Caltrans Director Will Kempton said.

If completed within 180 days of the catastrophe, emergency repair work restoring "essential travel" is eligible for 100 percent reimbursement by the federal government, according to the administration’s Web site.

The contract requires that the I-580 connector be open to commuters 50 calendar days after crews begin work May 8. The contract also includes incentives to finish as fast as possible.

For every day the contractor awarded the project finishes before June 27, it will receive $200,000. The incentive is capped at $5 million. A disincentive of $200,000 is applied for every day the project is delayed past the 50-day mark.

The preliminary estimate for the I-880 repair is $8.8 million, including demolition of the destroyed portion of I-580, interstate closures and the state-sponsored free transit on Monday. The federal government will absorb those costs, but it is undetermined how much of the I-580 repair will be recouped by the state.

dsmith@examiner.com

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