'Significant crack' found in CA Bay Bridge

September 6, 2009 5:57:32 AM PDT
Crews working on a seismic retrofit of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Saturday found what authorities called a "significant crack" in the eastern span that could keep the California landmark closed beyond a planned holiday weekend shutdown. During an inspection, workers discovered a problem with a steel link that helps hold up the bridge's eastern portion, senior bridge engineer Ken Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. The link -- part of a network of eight similar pieces -- is about two inches thick and was cracked halfway through.

"The crack is significant enough to have closed the bridge on its own," Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said at a news conference Saturday night. "We have to make this repair before we reopen the bridge."

Ney added "it's very possible that this could prevent us from opening Tuesday morning," when the work week resumes and the bridge had been set to reopen.

The 73-year-old bridge was shut down Thursday night so a section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double-deck section that will connect the bridge with a short detour.

Friday was the first time the bridge was closed on a workday since part of it collapsed in a devastating 1989 earthquake.

California transportation workers have used the closure this weekend to conduct a top-to-bottom inspection of the bridge.

Ney said the last such inspection was in 2007, and that the crack likely appeared since then. He said he did not believe it was related to the construction project.

"The bridge will be safer when we open it than when we closed it," he said.

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