The California Department of Transportation still has no official estimate for when the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will reopen, and that includes the possibility it will remain closed for the Monday morning commute.
The main focus of the effort Sunday is to make sure cable's on the bridge will withstand vibrations and wind. The crews are having problems getting an exact alignment of a huge screw type cylinders into a series of metal plates. They can't get them to fit correctly so that there is no metal on metal contact.
Reporters pressed Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney about a possible Plan B if the current effort does not work. After resisting the question, Ney said if they had to entirely replace the suspension area in question, it could take weeks because they would have to order the materials.
Stress testing the repair work is the next step and that is expected to happen Sunday, but it's not known how long that will take.
Although hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for the bridge to open, the specialized team working on the bridge consists of just 20 people. That team took Saturday night off after midnight because they were facing exhaustion from their 24 hour a day efforts since Tuesday night.
So the bottom line for Bay Bridge commuters is that you should start making alternate plans to get to work Monday. The next update is scheduled for 5 p.m.
"We've never done a modification like this so it's difficult to predict how long it will take," Bey said of the testing.
Here is the Caltrans to do list:
- Workers have to custom-fit steel in their efforts to repair a section where two rods and a crossbar fell at the eastern span's upper deck Tuesday evening.
- Once the custom-fitting is completed, workers will grind areas where steel is rubbing on steel so that those areas are smoother.
- Then there will be several hours of rigorous tests followed by enhancements to make the repair area safer.
- Finally, outside experts from the Federal Highway Administration and other groups will examine the repaired section to make sure it's ready to handle traffic again.
Engineers have been trying to repair the bridge so that the 280,000 commuters who use it each weekday.
Construction crews began the repairs after two rods and a crossbar broke during Tuesday evening rush hour, sending 5,000 pounds of steel crashing onto the upper deck.
The bridge closure has made for some rough commutes, with heavy traffic and crowded BART trains. Other bridges that provide access to San Francisco were especially congested, as some of drivers who normally use the bridge each day take alternate routes. Transit leaders are hoping commuters who were forced to take public transportation during the bridge closure will make it a permanent change. BART has seen a record number of riders each day.
Three vehicles were damaged when a chunk of metal and a long cable fell onto westbound lanes at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The pieces that failed were parts of major repairs done last month after state inspectors discovered a crack in an "eyebar," an important structural beam. The rods that broke were holding a saddle-like cap that had been installed to strengthen the cracked eyebar.
Officials with the California Department of Transportation have attributed the incident to vibrations and grinding on a metal tie rod, causing it to snap. They say they are making enhancements to address the issue.
Officials say strong winds likely played a role in Tuesday's failure, heightening concerns by some experts about the integrity of the repair and the bridge's safety in an earthquake.
The failure resurrected fears about the safety of a span that millions watching the 1989 World Series broadcast learned had failed during an earthquake.
The terrifying scene Tuesday stirred anger over the constant delays and soaring costs of the still-unfinished new eastern span of the 73-year-old bridge, which has become the largest public works project in California history.
BART plans to provide 24-hour train service if the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge remains closed.
Trains will run hourly to 14 stations overnight Saturday. The agency has no plans to run service overnight Sunday even if the bridge does not reopen..