Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said Wednesday that it might be weeks or months before the projected opening of the new Bay Bridge can be predicted with confidence. The decision depends on the pace of a fix for large broken bolts designed to secure vital seismic safety equipment for the suspension span.
He and other transportation officials said at a commission meeting in Oakland that they hope the projected Labor Day opening will still be possible, but it depends on how fast an engineering workaround can be selected, approved and built.
"Until we have a solution, we don't now what our schedule is," Heminger said. He also disputed the $1 million cost estimate for the work, earlier provided by Toll Bridge Program Manager Tony Anziano.
"We don't know what the solution is, so we don't know what it costs, either," Heminger said. "We don't know schedule, we don't know budget."
A few options are being considered, including metal collars that would fit over two seismic shear keys to replace the function of the broken bolts, and a steel-reinforced concrete cover.
Agency engineers had permitted the bolts to be installed despite their having failed five of 150 quality tests conducted by the manufacturer and by the Caltrans materials lab, Anziano said at the meeting. The failed tests involved elongation of the bolts. The Bee has requested copies of the testing documents, but Caltrans officials have not yet made them available.
Anziano said that a range of other parts manufactured by Dyson Corp. of Ohio, the bolts' supplier, have been visually examined, and so far show no defects. A review of those parts, some of them installed on the bridge tower, will continue.
Any solution to secure the shear keys will take months to design, approve and install.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan asked Heminger whether it would be prudent to set a "drop dead date" for confirming the Labor Day opening, to avoid a huge loss of hotel revenue for guests arriving for the event, and costly disruptions to celebration plans.
Heminger agreed that such a decision might be made eventually, but not yet. The timing, he said, depends largely on how long it would take to fabricate new parts.
Officials emphasized that safety was the primary consideration.
Anaziano said the agency remains hopeful that only the 96 suspect anchor bolts, also called rods, installed in 2008 on two of the four shear keys, will require the planned fix. The remaining 192 bolts, installed in 2010 to secure two other shear keys and four giant seismic bearings, so far have shown no signs of breakage after having been tightened. But they have yet to be tested fully.
Caltrans is still trying to determine why the bolts broke, but suspects that contamination by hydrogen caused them to become brittle.
Call The Bee's Charles Piller, (916) 321-1113. Follow him on Twitter @cpiller.