OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The past two days have marked significant milestones in the construction of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span, with Monday’s lighting of catwalks leading to the bridge’s tower following a day after the last sections of the deck arrived from China.
The self-anchored suspension span connecting Yerba Buena Island to Oakland appears set to open sometime in fall 2013, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said at a news conference in Oakland Monday afternoon.Caltrans officials took media members on a tour Monday of the new span, including the base of one of the four 1,060-foot-long catwalks, where construction lights were switched on for the first time Monday evening.
The lights were put in place to allow construction crews to work at night to prepare for the placement of the span’s main cable in early 2012, Ney said.
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The night work is recommended for the installation and measurement of the cables since heat from the sun can alter their length, he said.
The lights will allow Bay Area residents to “start to see what this bridge is actually going to look like” when it is completed, Ney said.
The lights are the same ones used by crews on the construction of the new Carquinez Bridge, which was completed in 2003.
The switching on of the lights came after the final four deck sections of the eastern span arrived Sunday on a ship from Shanghai, China, where they were being made.
The sections, which weigh a total of more than 5,000 tons, will be put in place over the next couple of months, filling in a gap in the bridge where the cables will connect in the structure, Ney said.
There have been years of delays and cost overruns in the planning and building of the new eastern span, which was commissioned following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that collapsed a section of the upper deck of the bridge.
But since the first deck sections began arriving from China in January 2010, the $6.3 billion project has been humming along toward an opening date in the second half of 2013, possibly in time for the America’s Cup sailing race being held in San Francisco that September, Ney said.
“We’re going to work very closely with America’s Cup (organizers),” he said, but added that “seismic safety is our primary concern” in determining when exactly to open the bridge.
The construction will also require the closure of westbound traffic on the bridge for a couple of days in early 2012 — the date is yet to be determined—while crews create a new detour for traffic coming onto the bridge toward San Francisco, Ney said.
During the construction, Caltrans officials are continuing to urge drivers on the bridge to focus on the road instead of the new landmark being built right beside it.
“The bridge is so large, there’s no effective way to screen it, so getting the information out to the public is the best way” to prevent crashes, Ney said.
Once the new eastern span is completed and opened, the process will not be complete since crews will still have to dismantle the old span, a process that could take at least a few years, Ney said.
For a timeline of upcoming milestones in the Bridge’s construction, visit www.baybridgeinfo.org.
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