San Francisco-Oakland: Troubled bridge over water

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Photo: Markus Lueske / Flickr)San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Photo: Markus Lueske / Flickr)

Closing in on an end-of-summer opening, the $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is getting set for its big day more with a whimper than a bang.

Good point from Dan Walters in San Jose Mercury News. Do the trials and tribulations (that seems like a reasonable one size fits all description for this span) of the bridge tell us something about the future of California’s planned bullet trains and tunnels?

California Governor Jerry Brown may now be backing off his “it will be open by Labor Day” stance after his cavalier dismissal of concerns lead to some pointed questions about responsibility and safety.

The Federal Highway Administration has now launched a probe into why seemingly undesirable bolts were used on portions of the bridge.

And The San Francisco Chronicle reports that John Fisher, 82, an emeritus professor of civil engineering at Lehigh University and member of Caltrans’ peer-review panel for the project, said the state’s decision to use galvanized, high-strength steel rods was “not well-thought through” because such metal can crack when exposed to the elements, and Caltrans needs to examine hundreds of at-risk rods on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge and replace any that are hard enough to be vulnerable to cracking.

Design problems, work problems, budget problems–it’s been a long rocky road for this bridge. In any construction project–but, it seems, especially the really big ones–snowballing is a problem: small problems, inadequately handled, roll into bigger ones and so on.

It’s surely at times like this that the QC guys and the inspectors say, “Hey, we told you we were the good guys.”