Bay Bridge officials announce plan to fix bolt problem

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OAKLAND (BCN)

Transportation officials overseeing construction of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span said today they have developed a solution to a problem involving faulty anchor bolts on the span, and that the fix could cost up to $10 million.

They also told the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Area Toll Authority today that they won’t know until at least the end of the month whether the new span will open on schedule on Sept. 3.

MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger said the decision on whether to open the span over the Labor Day weekend will likely be made by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It ultimately will be a decision by elected officials, as it should be,” Heminger said. He said he and other transportation officials will provide advice on the matter.

The MTC and the California Department of Transportation learned in March that about a third of the 96 bolts installed on a pier just east of Yerba Buena Island had failed.

The bolts, or anchor rods — located near where the new span’s self-anchored suspension span meets its skyway — had popped out several inches after being tightened. They were manufactured in Ohio in 2008.

Heminger said those bolts will be replaced but transportation officials are still trying to figure out if they need to replace another batch of 192 bolts manufactured in 2010.

He said it is a good sign that none of those 192 bolts failed during tests conducted in recent weeks, but noted that more testing remains to be done before they are considered safe.

Heminger said that if the 2010 bolts need to be replaced, it is possible that could happen gradually after the new span opens.

Caltrans spokesman Andrew Gordon said that to address the problem with the 2008 bolts — which are holding in place seismic safety devices known as shear keys that help prevent swaying during an earthquake — officials have decided to install large steel saddles that will essentially perform the same function.

Caltrans Executive Director Andre Boutros said during the meeting that the steel saddle will provide the equivalent clamping force as the original bolt design in holding down the shear keys.

Boutros said there is no estimated time yet for completing the fix because Caltrans is still negotiating with the contractor.

“We hope it will be before Labor Day,” he said.

Transportation officials had considered two possible solutions to the problem with the 2008 bolts: steel saddles or a steel collar in which two plates would be stacked or welded together.

Boutros said the decision was made to install steel saddles because that option is less difficult and less costly than building a steel collar.

He said constructing a steel collar would cost up to $20 million and require more coring of concrete on the pier, but installing steel saddles will only cost $5 million to $10 million and will require less coring.

Heminger told the commission that transportation officials feel the “urgency” to fix the problem and open the new span as soon as possible because the whole idea behind the new eastern span is to make the Bay Bridge seismically safe after it was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Heminger said there will be another update on the bolt problem at a special Bay Area Toll Authority meeting on May 29. He said the decision on whether to open the new span on schedule might be announced at that time.

(Copyright 2013 Bay City News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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