SF Bridge Reopens After Repairs Completed

Thu September 24, 2009 - West Edition
Sudhin Thanawala




SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reopened Sept. 8 just in time for the start of the work week after transit officials hastily announced that crews were able to make a crucial repair a day ahead of schedule.

“Traffic seems to be flowing smoothly,” California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said after the bridge reopened just before 7 a.m. “I think it’s still a surprise.”

Officials had pushed the reopening to 5 a.m. Sept. 9 after crews discovered a crack Sept. 5 while conducting seismic upgrades on the 73-year-old bridge.

The bridge, which carries about 260,000 vehicles a day between San Francisco and heavily populated cities to its east, was closed over the Labor Day weekend so a football-field-sized, 3,300-ton (2,993 t) section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double-deck section.

The new section connects the bridge with a short detour that will be used until a new east span is completed by 2013.

Crews used the opportunity to inspect the bridge and found a 2-in. (5 cm) -thick steel link cracked halfway through.

Ney said a contractor worked throughout the night to make a replacement part and complete the work. An inspection following the repair “went without a hitch,” he said.

“The bridge has been inspected and it’s safer than it was when we closed it,” said Caltrans director Randy Iwasaki.

The bridge shut down the night of Sept. 3, and other bridges and public transportation systems were able to accommodate extra riders Sept. 4, the first time that the bridge was closed on a working day since a major earthquake in 1989.

Meanwhile, the Sept. 8 morning rush hour was still heavy on several other Bay Area roadways including the Golden Gate Bridge, said Sgt. Trent Cross, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol’s Golden Gate division.

“I think most motorists weren’t aware or didn’t know that the bridge was open,” Cross said.

Public transit also was busier than usual despite the early reopening.

Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Jim Allison said the commuter rail line could still set a record. Officials expected some 7,700 more passengers than the previous week. It averages about 340,000 commuters a day.