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Speedy Repairs Allowed Caltrans to to Reopen Bay Bridge 11 Hours Early

Fri November 02, 2007 - West Edition

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Traffic flowed in both directions on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge 11 hours ahead of schedule, as construction crews wrapped up repairs the afternoon of Sept. 3.

The bridge reopened to traffic at 6 p.m. Sept. 3, far ahead of the originally scheduled reopening of 5 a.m. Sept. 4, “a tremendous achievement by a great team,” said California Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton.

“I am elated,” he said at a news conference at the mouth of the Yerba Buena tunnel, near where the work was done. Behind him, dozens of workers made last-minute pavement patches and performed other touchup work.

James C. Ghielmetti, a member of the state Transportation Commission, paid a Labor Day tribute to the workers who tore the old 350-ft. (106 m) section apart and replaced it with a new, 6,500-ton (5,890 t) retrofitted section well ahead of schedule.

“Most of these guys worked 12-hour days for three days,” Ghielmetti said. “This was their Super Bowl, and they performed.”

Crews spent the afternoon surveying the repair work and looking for damage to the lower deck of the bridge, such as potholes, from falling chunks of steel and concrete during weekend demolition of the upper deck, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said.

Rancho Cordova-based contractor C.C. Myers said they found nothing more than minor damage.

“I’m going to go home and have a glass of wine right now,” Myers said.

Crews successfully slid the new section of the bridge into place Sept. 2.

The entire bridge shut down Aug. 31 evening, the first total Bay Bridge closure since the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the bridge in 1989. The collapsed section of the eastern span killed one motorist.

Caltrans spent $1 million on a statewide campaign to warn motorists about the Labor Day weekend bridge closure. On an average day, approximately 280,000 vehicles use the Bay Bridge.

“Even fans from Tennessee were aware what was going on here,” Ghielmetti said, referring to the Saturday football game between the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Tennessee.

The warnings appeared to have worked, with boosted public transportation ridership and no major traffic backups reported throughout the Bay Area. On Sept. 2, an estimated 50,000 people gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love, despite concerns that it and other weekend events would suffer because of the bridge shutdown.

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