On Thursday, August 15, the three-member Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee voted to open the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge September 3, as originally planned. On July 8, it had been announced that the bridge opening would have to be delayed beyond the originally planned Labor Day weekend because they didn’t expect the failed bolt retrofit work to be completed until mid-December. Days later, hope was rekindled that a short-fix could be implemented quickly to address the failure of nearly one-third of the 96 bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers known as shear keys to the deck when they were tightened in March. The August 15 decision followed a ruling by the Federal Highway Transportation Administration that an interim fix to address the bolt failures that occurred in March would allow the new span to open safely while the defective bolts are being retrofitted.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Seismic Safety Projects website confirms that “The Bay Bridge Will Be Closed Labor Day Weekend 8 P.M. Wednesday, Aug. 28 to 5 A.M. Tuesday, Sept. 3.” During the closure, the original East Span will be taken out of service and efforts made to open the new East Span to traffic. Work will be performed at the east (aka the Oakland Touchdown) and west (aka the Yerba Buena Island Transition Structure) ends of the new bridge to connect it to the existing Toll Plaza and Yerba Buena Island. Other “essential construction activities, including paving, striping and erecting barrier rail” as well as work “on the West Span, replacing lighting fixtures, cleaning and painting the cable, and repairing finger joints” will be performed as well. When the new San Francisco-Oakland “bridge reopens to traffic on Tuesday, Sept. 3, motorists will encounter a new driving experience, as traffic moves from the upper and lower decks of the original bridge to the parallel, side-by-side decks of the new East Span.” “The new side-by-side configuration will open up panoramic views of the San Francisco bay and the East Bay hills.”
The short-term fix will involve “inserting large steel plates, known as shims, into each of four bearings, enhancing their ability to safely distribute energy during an earthquake.” “The long-term solution to fixing the broken bolts on the eastern span is to cover them with an exterior saddle and cable system that is encased in concrete.” Work on the long-term solution will continue after the short-term fix is completed.
Transportation officials decided to close the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge over Labor Day weekend instead of another weekend in September because traffic is lighter at that time and a lot of planning had already been done for that weekend in anticipation of opening the new span after Labor Day weekend.
Other Sources: New Bay Bridge to Open Labor Day Weekend, Sources Tell KPIX 5, CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service, Aug. 14, 2013; New Bay Bridge Scheduled to Open September 3 After Labor Day Weekend Closure, San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 15, 2013; Toll Authority Confirms New Bay Bridge to Open Labor Day Weekend, CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service, Aug. 15, 2013