Paul Kitagaki / Bee file, 2012

Corrosion of steel tendons supporting the new BayBridge skyway running between Oakland and the suspension span could affect the structure's performance in a quake.

More Information

  • Supplier of Bay Bridge bolts criticized in earlier Caltrans audit
  • Caltrans reviewing whether broken bolts on Bay Bridge project failed tests
  • Newly released test results show more Bay Bridge bolts failed earlier tests
  • Bay Bridge problems

    The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will meet Wednesday to consider concerns about the construction of the new Bay Bridge. Among the outstanding issues:

    Broken anchor bolts: Bolts at the east pier of suspension span broke in March. The state Transportation Department selected a steel "saddle" retrofit to hold down seismic equipment that the bolts were meant to secure.

    Bolts at east pier: Caltrans is conducting further tests to determine whether 192 other 3-inch diameter bolts, which secure seismic equipment, must be replaced.

    Bolts that secure tower: The manufacturer mistakenly treated more than 400 giant anchor bolts with hydrochloric acid during their production, rendering them particularly vulnerable to breakage.

    Bolts on suspension span: About 1,700 bolts are among those used despite violating specifications meant to prevent brittleness under stress.

    Testing, construction lapses: Errors on the tower foundation, which suggest possibly weak concrete, are under review by an expert panel assembled by the state Legislative Analyst's Office. The panel expects to release its report by June 30.

    Defective tower welds: Caltrans has been assessing and repairing 33-foot-long welds at the tower base, essential for stability in a quake, for the past 10 months.

    Corroded skyway tendons: Construction errors allowed thousands of steel tendons to corrode, leading to concerns among experts about the skyway viaduct's durability in a large quake or during normal use. Caltrans has called the problem minor.

Transportation commissioners seeking answers on Bay Bridge

Published: Tuesday, May. 28, 2013 - 6:11 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014 - 7:26 pm

Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said Tuesday that they expect new details on fixes for broken and suspect bolts on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at a special meeting Wednesday.

The troubled span should not open for traffic, they said, before transportation officials provide comprehensive answers for the bolt problems and others involving defective welds in the base of its tower and corroded tendons in its skyway viaduct.

Amy Rein Worth, commission chair and mayor of Orinda, said her group would insist on a close look at all the challenges facing the new eastern span before its projected opening on Labor Day weekend.

Safety remains the bottom line, Worth said, despite an understandable feeling of urgency to remove traffic from the old, seismically vulnerable span.

"It's important to get comprehensive answers on the post-tension tendons and the welds" as well as the bolts, she said. "All of these issues weigh in the public's confidence about the safety of the bridge."

A Labor Day opening will depend on how quickly the California Department of Transportation can solve the bolt problem and address the other issues.

"Anything we need a second look on, we'll do it at the front end," without regard to any deadline, said commissioner Federal D. Glover, a Contra Costa County supervisor. "We definitely don't want to open a bridge and then say, 'We've got another problem here, and we'll fix it on the run.' "

Caltrans recently began a retrofit for the broken bolts on the east pier of the suspension span and is examining concerns about thousands of other suspect bolts. Caltrans also has acknowledged the weld defects. But so far the agency has not released details of its progress over the past 10 months to fix the 33-foot-long welds, required to stabilize the tower during earthquakes.

Earlier this month, The Sacramento Bee reported widespread corrosion in the skyway tendons - a problem that bridge engineers and metallurgy experts said could compromise the seismic stability and service life of the structure. Caltrans has called the problem minor - a conclusion that experts challenged.

Worth said that she hopes to get a full report, at least on the bolt issues, from the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee - which consists of the directors of Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission - as early as June 12.

It would include recommended solutions, an analysis of the risks of treating some problems as deferred maintenance, and oversight comments from the Federal Highway Administration.

Some elected officials conducting oversight of the $6.4 billion construction project said the litany of problems reflected the need for a more formal review.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the Transportation and Housing Committee, and Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, a member of the committee and an engineer, called last week for an investigation of Caltrans actions on the Bay Bridge, with subpoena power and testimony under oath.

On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed SB 486, authored by DeSaulnier, which would move control over Caltrans audits and investigations from the agency to the California Transportation Commission. The law would require reporting to the governor, legislature and public. Last week, the Senate passed DeSaulnier's SB 425, which would make expert "peer review" of transportation megaprojects more open and unbiased. Both laws were written in response to concerns uncovered in Sacramento Bee investigations of Caltrans operations.

Call The Bee's Charles Piller, (916) 321-1113. Follow him on Twitter @cpiller.

SPECIAL REPORT: Read The Sacramento Bee's Bay Bridge investigation, see photos, interactives and video.

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