Bay Bridge committee OKs up to $4M to study latest problem

A panel overseeing a new $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge approved spending up to $4 million to study the latest problems discovered with the structure.

The three-member Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee approved the funding Monday after an anchor rod in the bridge's tower failed a test and salt was found in other parts of the tower, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“We've got some reassurance that we need to provide people that they got the bridge that they paid for and the bridge is safe,” said Steve Heminger, chairman of the committee.

Toll-payer funds will be used to determine the extent of the problems.

“We're going to get to the bottom of it, and if there is a problem, we're going to fix it,” said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is headed by Heminger.

Rentschler said the bridge is safe for use.

The new bridge — intended to replace a span that was not considered earthquake-safe — has experienced other problems.

Thirty-two bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers to the deck of the bridge cracked in 2013 after they were tightened, threatening to delay the opening of the span.

Tests found hydrogen had infected the bolts, making them brittle.

At issue now is salt that was found during recent testing in some of the sleeves that hold 25-foot-long steel rods at the base of the tower. One of the rods also moved easily during a test last week.

The rods are meant to keep the 525-foot-tall tower from heaving up and down in an earthquake, the Chronicle reported. If the rods are steeping in salt water, it could shorten their life span.

The bridge has also experienced rust-stained white paint and misaligned steel rods.

An investigative report requested by lawmakers last year found that officials who oversaw bridge construction from 2007 to 2011 repeatedly brushed off criticism about flawed welding, bolts and other engineering work.

The new span replaced one built in the 1930s that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

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