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Repairs on Bay Bridge continue through morning commute

on October 28, 2009

Caltrans is working through the night to repair the Bay Bridge, replacing and enhancing the steel rod structures which loosened and fell across two lanes of traffic on Tuesday evening, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said at a press conference on Wednesday. Ney said that high winds throughout the day have made repair work difficult, and would not give an exact prognosis on when the bridge might reopen.

Commuters “need to be planning other routes for the next day or so,” Ney said.

New tie rods need to be installed and hours of testing must take place before the bridge is opened to traffic, meaning that Oakland residents who rely on the bridge to get to and from San Francisco will have to find other routes of travel until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.

Two tie rods from the Bay Bridge

Two tie rods from the Bay Bridge

Ney said that high winds on Tuesday caused vibrations in the tie rods, creating “fatigue” in their steel and eventually causing them to fall to the bridge below, where they struck three cars and injured a man.

Caltran officials consulted the Federal Highway Administration today to assess plans for repairing the bridge, which include enhancing the design of the rods to resist vibrations. Fatigue is the key focus of the enhancements, which will create deeper welds that fasten the tie rods directly to the “saddles” that house them. Ney said this would ensure that if a similar problem occurs in the future, the rods will not become detached and fall as they did on Tuesday.

The broken tie rods were part of the September repairs that shut down the bridge completely for four and a half days. Contractor C.C. Myers, the same company that handled emergency repairs of a cracked eyebar over Labor Day weekend, is now involved with replacing the rods that broke on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday Ney apologized for the closure of the Bay Bridge and said that “we’re doing everything possible to make the bridge safe.” He didn’t rule out that the hurried nature of the Labor day repairs could be partially to blame for the incident. “Obviously there’s an issue with the original [tie rod] design with fatigue,” Ney said, adding that they had their “best minds” working to return the bridge to public service.


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