Update:  Although the Federal Highway Administration has approved the temporary fix that engineers have proposed for the troubled Bay Bridge eastern span, Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said a number of issues may still prevent the bridge from opening on Labor Day, as originally planned.

“There’s a whole host of construction work that has to take place on the weekend that they close the bridge,” Rentschler told KQED. “There’s a whole host of issues in the Bay Bridge corridor that you have to be concerned about — inconveniencing people, their plans, traffic. Those are two examples. There are others.”

Rentschler said the Bridge Oversight Committee hopes to decide this week whether to open the bridge before it is permanently completed.

Original post

(AP) Plans to open the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as scheduled on Labor Day got a boost from federal officials.

A view of the underside of the eastern side of the new Bay Bridge on March 27. Bolts can be seen in a rectangular formation in the center of the photo. Thirty-two steel rods on the new eastern span have snapped. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
A view of the underside of the eastern side of the new Bay Bridge on March 27. Steel rods on the new span have snapped. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

In an Aug. 9 letter, the Federal Highway Administration signed off on a temporary fix for cracked seismic safety bolts on the span that could allow for the Labor Day opening. Media outlets reported the letter on Tuesday morning.

FHA Division Administrator Vincent Mammano said in the letter he sees no reason to delay opening the bridge to traffic while the permanent fix is completed. The letter was sent to Steve Heminger, head of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee. It’s not clear whether bridge officials have decided to go forward with the temporary fix. A call to bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon early Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Heminger has said the temporary fix involves installing steel plates in the area of the broken bolts to help prevent movement during an earthquake. The temporary fix would be in place while long-term repairs occurred. The cracked bolts have derailed the opening of the eastern span and have led to millions of dollars in cost overruns on the $6.4 billion project.

The existing bridge, built in the 1930s, is not considered earthquake-safe, and years of cost overruns and construction and design delays have plagued the new project.

The current problems started in March, when 32 of the 17-foot-long bolts that secure earthquake shock absorbers to the deck of the bridge were tightened. Tests found that hydrogen had infected the bolts, which were also made of poor-quality steel, making them brittle. When tightened to high tension, the brittleness gave way, causing the cracks.

The permanent repair is a steel saddle that would replace the clinching function of the failed bolts.

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