Skip to comments.Bay Bridge crews scuttle to fix span by Tuesday
Posted on 09/06/2009 10:29:55 PM PDT by george76
Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters remain in limbo today as crews scramble to complete an emergency repair to the workhorse Bay Bridge.
The 73-year-old bridge, crossed by more than 260,000 cars and trucks a day, was shut down for a larger, unrelated seismic upgrade project.
Now, crews are working to fix a cracked steel link, called an eyebar, that helps hold up the east span. Inspectors discovered the problem Saturday afternoon, setting in motion a dash to fix a problem that - by itself - would have forced officials to shut down the bridge.
"There's a lot of rust in the crack, so it's been there for a while," Forner said.
The last time the bridge was inspected was in 2007.
(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...
What an opportune time for another BART employee strike.
The last time the bridge was inspected was in 2007.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has a huge lobby in Washington. They milk lots of money out of the taxpayer, yet they can't find a crack that could lead to a disaster. That crack has been there for years.
They should equip a large group of curious monkeys with helmet cameras and send them all over the bridge. It would do at least as well as the current process. Having the bridge fall into the water unexpectedly would be rather embarrassing.
Your anger is misdirected. Although I am a civil engineer, I am not a member of ASCE, and I do work as a consultant for CALTRANS (the CA DoT.)
The problem is not ASCE, it's CALTRANS, which has some of the more idiotic rules of any state DoT in the Nation, and heavy union representation.
I’ve always loved the Bay Bridge. In my opinion, it’s the unsung hero to its more fashionable sister, the Golden Gate.
They are both impressive, as is the somewhat dowdy Richmond San Rafael Bridge, based on length. My only issue is that you have to live in the Bay Area to drive over them!
Scuttle? They plan to scuttle the bridge?
And let us not forget the San Mateo Bridge - the most famous bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area!!
Here is an eyebar.
An eyebar that failed.
I’m a 25 year Caltrans employee and I spent 12 years as a bridge engineer in the San Francisco bay area. That is my bridge. I spent 3 years working on the Seismic Retrofit of that west span of the bay brige, to insure against catastrophic collapse during a large earthquake.
Caltrans sends teams of bridge maintenance engineers to inspect thousands of bridges statewide, on a 3-year cycle. This bridge is only one of them. It is not an easy job and there is never enough time to scrutinize every high strength bolt on every connection on every structural steel member. Sorry. They do the best they can.
The crack in the eyebar was discovered AFTER the old section of bridge was removed and before the new section was slid into place. At this time, the north end of the span with the failed eyebar was unsupported. For all I know, the only reason the crack appeared was due to this difference in loading conditions, with this span able to move freely with nothing to resist the movement. Or our bridge maintenance inspectors just missed. I can’t say for sure.
The bay bridge is a very important connection and gets plenty of close inspection for bridge maintenance issue. I can’t say for sure our inspectors caught that crack, but it just may be that it hadn’t yet given way until after that existing span was removed to make way for the new one needed to accept traffic from the temporary detour that is needed to make room for the new bridge on the north side.
It’s really easy to criticize people when you have no working knowledge of the job. I would appreciate it if you kept that in mind.
That’s my bridge. As a Caltrans Brige Engineer, I spent 3 years working on the west end seismic retrofit of the suspension spans, 3 years working on the new skyway portion (the bulk of the length over water from the toll plaza), and a year working on the project that this post relates to.
Last year I had the pleasure of working on the west tie-in, which replaced the upper deck right at the tunnel, which will direct traffic to the detour south of the existing bridge. It was a fun weekend of work. I was invited to attend this weekend but I just couldn’t find time away from my new job north of Sacramento to attend. I would love to be there.
Sure, Caltrans is the worst. I get the picture. I am used to being hated by the public. I would hope to get better from a fellow civil engineer, but hey, human nature is what it is.
Maybe Caltrans does have the most idiotic rules of any DOT. We certainly have the legislature to saddle us with those rules. But I’m betting you don’t have any working knowledge of the process we use to inspect the states thousands of bridges. As a 25 year employee, with 12 years as a bridge engineer and now working directly with the state’s bridge maintenance engineers, I’m betting I have some first hand knowledge you don’t. But maybe not...
Absent earthquakes, we haven’t had any bridges fall down lately like the State of Minnesota, so you might want to rethink if we really have the most idiotic rules of any DOT or not. Or don’t. That’s OK to. I’m used to it.
It’s fun to slam other folks on the internet in a flippant way.
Who is the Contractor?
CC Myers is the contractor on the South Detour project.
Is Kiewit there also.
News conference about to start bump.
CALTRANS DOES have the most idiotic rules in the Nation, and I say it as I work inside CALTRANS, doing work very few CALTRANS engineers know how to do.
In my experience, innovation in CALTRANS is highly discouraged. I have lost count of how many times I have been told by my supervisors in CALTRANS that we cannot use Product A for application 1, because “the specs say we must use Product B...” even if Product A has demonstrably better characteristics. Do you get to have the pleasure of sitting in a meeting with a contractor to tell them the products they selected are no-good, just because they are NOT what the specs ask for, even though they have better properties?
Sadly I get to do that, often...and because I am the consultant doing the “dirty work” I get the double-slam, being bad-mouthed by contractors and state engineers as well. Recently I had the pleasure of being threatened by a contractor with being taken to court for enforcing the specs and the reply from the CALTRANS engineer in charge was to tell me to “stop rocking the boat.”
However, whenever rules get waived (think the 5/14 tunnel or the Eisenhower Maze,) CALTRANS can build faster and better than anyone...and I was involved in those projects as well.
From an outsiders perspective, I’ve heard they are one of the best bridge contractors out there. Any additional thoougths from a local?
Kiewit was the lead contractor on the “Skyway” job I was on. This was the long, plain looking portion of the bridge from the toll plaza to the suspension bridge near the island.
The Kiewit staff on that project were simply exceptional. They were prepared, effective, efficient and very safety conscious. I was very impressed and proud to be able to work with such an effective group.
That does not mean that my team of engineers didn’t have to be on site and enforce the contract. That goes without saying, in order to insure the bride is built to the specifications and quality we demand for the longevity of the structure.
But the Kiewit folks were an excellent group. That bridge is well constructed and will do its job for a long time.
I’m sorry you have such a bad experience.
For my part, I’ve generally been impressed with the engineer consultants I’ve had the honor to work with. Most of them are smart, on the ball and hard working.
Your example is true and does represent the difficulty of living within a bloated bureaucracy saddled with a massive body of restrictive laws. This is not unique to Caltrans. Any big private company operating in California is going to have to comply with all of those laws.
With respect to your example, I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve had to tell contractors they couldn’t use a fabulous idea because we could not get the idea approved. You know that when placing steel reinforcing for a bridge, you need to support it on something to keep it at the right height above the forms. Usually this is done with small concrete blocks, called “dobies”. If the bars need to be held at a non-standard height, the contractor has to hand-build repar supports, called “chairs”. Our contractor wanted to use a prefab chair made from high-impact plastic, but out specs didn’t allow for it. The reason is, the shape left less room for the concrete to flow in between the legs of the plastic chair. I wanted this item approved, but lab turned it down because they could not be convinced that air-holes in the chairs could not be avoided. Win some, lose some.
But I also approved several changes the contractor asked for. We sent the materials they wanted to use to our lab for testing, which approved or denied their requests. Approved products were then added them to our Prequalified Products List. I got several changes made that were outside our “specs” this way.
Keep in mind that if the state was not so lawsuit-happy, we could be more flexible. If we make an unproven change and anything goes wrong for any reason, a lawyer is going to find that change and he is going to go to a jury and say “Why didn’t you use the approved products you knew were safe? Why did you allow the use of an unsafe, unproven item? My client deserves money.”
I will agree with you that Caltrans has become a bloated bureaucracy that is slow moving. I saw the state of Nevada use large orange barrels when the closed lanes and it took years for that to be implemented with Caltrans. Again, we are saddled with laws we have to comply with, and then there is liability.
CC Myers is a good, effective contractor. They get work done, especially when the “old man” is on site. I am sure Mr. Myers is on site at the bridge all weekend. These critical bridge closures come with stiff penalties for not finishing on time and rich bonuses for finishing ahead of schedule. CC Myers always finishes ahead of schedule, at least it is rare for them not to.
Shutting down the bay bridge causes a MASSIVE impact to the local community. Millions in revenue are lost when businesses have to defer work. Think about all the money lost by truckers who have to plan a different route during the bridge closure and then have to suffer the increased congestion and resulting increased costs.
When we close a bridge or highway, the impact is tremendous and very expensive. In this case, it has to be done. Cars can’t leap over the temporary gap in the bridge. But I’m only too aware of the impact.
We are lucky to have a reliable, effective contractor like CC Myers on this kind of really time-critical work. They are a good, effective contractor. I enjoyed working with them
That is typical Kiewit.
Thanks for the follow up :)
He was praised as a hero locally, as our commutes didn't have to be six hours any longer.....the zillions that company earned in speed bonuses were begrudged by nobody.