Replacement span could open before being finished 

Construction of the much-delayed Bay Bridge eastern span was pushed back seven more months, prompting officials to consider opening it before work has finished.

Bridge officials had hoped to open the new span before 2014 to protect motorists from earthquakes, failing bridge components and the deadly but temporary S-curve. But because of construction woes stemming from building a 2,050-foot suspension bridge to link a 1.2-mile finished skyway with Yerba Buena Island, the suspension bridge’s projected completion date was pushed back from March 2013 until October 2013, according to a Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee report.

In addition to adding time, the total cost ran up by another $44 million during three recent months to $2.3 billion, the report said.

The existing span was closed briefly after a support beam called an eyebar tore open under eight decades of accumulated stress.

Given the suspension bridge’s delayed timeline, officials are contemplating opening the span before it would normally be considered ready for traffic.

“We need to get it open as quickly as we can,” Caltrans bridge manager Tony Anziano said.

Architectural lighting and removal of temporary support structures, for example, might be completed after the span opens.

“Maybe some utility work can be deferred until after opening,” Anziano said. “There may be some final touchups that we can push back.”

That means Bay Bridge motorists can expect to zip past workers as they put finishing touches on the bridge after it opens. Lighting and paint might not be in place for the grand opening.

A 1990s decision to include a postcard-worthy landmark within the new span has turned the project, which was supposed to have wrapped up in 2004, into one of the biggest infrastructure debacles in the nation’s history.

The new eastern span is now expected to cost at least $6.2 billion — more than triple 2001 estimates, the report said.

The overruns must be borne by taxpayers and Bay Area toll payers, who are facing July 1 hikes.

Most suspension bridges are anchored at both ends with massive cables, but the new Bay Bridge suspension span will have a looped cable holding the structure together.

Construction of such a long self-anchored suspension bridge had never been attempted anywhere in the world.

jupton@sfexaminer.com


Elevated skyway

1.2 miles

Cost: $1.25 billion

Cost per foot: $198,000

Completion: December 2007


Self-anchored suspension bridge

2,050 feet

Cost: $2.27 billion*

Cost per foot: $1.1 million

Completion: October 2013*

* Projected

Source: Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee

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