With further delay, introducing . . .

Opening of new Bay Bridge is sure to be pushed back, but right now officials not ready to admit it

May 20, 2013

I was a Labor Day baby. It’s really my holiday. What I mean is, in my world the planets are all aligned that weekend, and my feelings always seem to be dead on. I have a strong hunch the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will not open by the end of Bill Wilson’s three-day vacation in early September.

Maybe that is not a stretch, but Caltrans officials still think things may go according to plan, and the bridge of the 21st century may have traffic on it by Sept. 2 at the latest. They still have that date circled, and are expected to make an announcement by the end of May. The recent string of mishaps has led to at least a month’s worth of repair days—if not more. So my bit of advice here is open when you are really ready to open.

How can you possibly upset the people on the Bay any more? Billions of dollars were spent on this new signature span, and now millions more will be spent on its repairs. I guess Caltrans thinks it can save face if it still opens on time; however, due to the circumstances there is not much left of that smiling mechanism. Do not make another mistake in a long line of mistakes here.

Oh, and then there is this little dandy of an accusation from the Sacramento Bee, which has been stinging the Bay Bridge project for about two years now: Thousands of steel tendons used to strengthen the skyway portion of the new eastern span were exposed to rain and salty bay mist during construction. Caltrans again has tried to take a fire extinguisher to the sudden flare-up, stating 1,600 were inspected and it was concluded that the bridge is still structurally sound.

Will the eastern span hold up during the mother of all earthquakes? My gut feeling is yes, and I don’t think that is a stretch. However, this symbol of strength and sloppiness is in line for a series of major repairs, which could cost hundreds of millions more to address. Caltrans might want to take the time and think about the impact of the upcoming and ongoing embarrassment. Take a few days. Let’s make it three. If you need a little more time to make the decision right, I’ll allow it. After all, you need to be flexible with these matters. Right, Caltrans?

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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