Bridge work ahead of schedule

Overnight Bay Bridge lane closures to replace a cracked and rusted portion of a steel rod will take a holiday hiatus, but could also be finished before the new year.

Three of five lanes on the upper deck and one of the lower will still be closed tonight, but all will remain open Wednesday morning through Saturday night.

There is a chance the lanes won’t be closed for much longer — if at all — after that, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said. The state agency that oversees bridge operations initially reported it could take until the new year to put permanent fixes in place.

Following short-term repairs to relieve stress on the eyebar over Labor Day weekend, a piece came crashing down onto rush-hour traffic, forcing a weeklong closure to bolster the fix. Caltrans’ latest repairs began Dec. 11 and have threatened to cause havoc through the holidays.

On Monday, construction workers and engineers replaced and shifted weight to a 12-foot section of an 80-foot eyebar, the portion that was initially found rusted and cracked during Labor Day weekend’s scheduled closure.

Tuesday, crews will be removing the remains of the temporary fix assembled to take pressure off the crack — four 80-foot steel rods that are two inches thick and two saddle bridges that connect them.

Workers had wiggle room in this current repair timeframe due to a forecast of three storms hitting the Bay Area, possibly making conditions too rough for construction. However, Ney said crews never had to stop during the recent wind and rain spells.

Now Caltrans will have to monitor whether the new piece of eyebar is enough to handle the pressure, which will likely mean a daily lane closure for an indefinite period of time.

The eyebar is one of 1,680 on the Bay Bridge that was supposed to be inspected every two years, and now — under federal mandate — should be inspected every three months, Ney said.

The closures have mostly snarled traffic around 11:30 p.m., slowing vehicles to about 10 mph through the construction zone, but then clearing up by about 1 a.m., CHP Officer Shawn Chase said. Caltrans has most of the lanes open by about 4:30 a.m., before they add congestion to the morning commute, Chase said.

 

Evolution of an eyebar

Thursday, Sept. 3, evening: Bridge shuts down during Labor Day weekend to allow planned work on replacement span

Saturday, Sept. 5, afternoon: Caltrans discovers dangerous crack in load-bearing eyebar

Sunday, Sept. 6, afternoon: Steel parts for eyebar repairs arrive from Arizona

Monday, Sept. 7, morning: Caltrans discovers the parts don’t fit together properly and orders an additional part as a makeshift solution

Monday, Sept. 7, evening: New part arrives from Oakland and is placed in position

Tuesday, Sept. 8, morning: Bay Bridge reopens several hours behind schedule

Tuesday, Oct. 27, afternoon: Several steel repair parts fall onto span during peak traffic time, as strong winds cause vibrations that shake pieces loose

Wednesday, Oct. 28, morning: Caltrans blames strong winds for fallen repair parts and says those parts will be put back in position and reinforced

Wednesday, Oct. 28, evening: Caltrans announces several repair enhancements to better protect against wind gusts

Thursday, Oct. 29, morning: Caltrans announces bridge will not reopen in time for Friday morning commute

Thursday, Oct. 29, evening: Caltrans announces repairs could be completed by 10 p.m., but tests will be performed before bridge reopens

Saturday, Oct. 31: Caltrans crews run into trouble while putting tension on the rods that will support the Bay Bridge fix, and decide to take an overnight break as more planning is done

Sunday, Nov. 1: Caltrans says repairs have failed internal testing and that the failed piece may need to be redesigned

Friday, Dec. 11: Work begins on more permanent fix; Caltrans says work will likely last until the new year

Monday, Dec. 21: Caltrans says work will likely be completed before the new year

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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