SAN RAFAEL (KPIX/CBS SF) — Caltrans crews hoped to start work on the permanent fix on Monday, but a string of storms and rain are forcing them to push back the start date until Thursday at the earliest.
Caltrans finished some temporary repair work early Saturday morning and says the bridge is perfectly safe.
“The bridge is structurally sound. The structural integrity of the bridge has not been compromised at all,” said Tony Tavares who is the Caltrans District 4 Director.
Concrete fell on the bridge’s lower deck on Thursday and the bridge was closed much of the day, snarling traffic around the North Bay and East Bay.
Despite reassurances, some commuters say they’re still worried about the safety of the bridge.
“There was a service call we had to go do over there and I’m like, I’m not going over that,” said Noe Rodriguez who lives in San Rafael. Rodriguez is a garage door technician and said he doesn’t feel comfortable crossing the Richmond San Rafael Bridge for work.
“That’s what we have to do to be able to bring money to our families, and be able to provide for everybody, and unfortunately that’s, it is what it is,” said Rodriguez.
A six-foot steel plate was initially installed as a temporary repair. On Friday night, engineers replaced it with an eight-foot plate to better protect the deck and improve the ride for drivers, California Department of Transportation officials said Saturday.
The bridge is safe and open to the public, Caltrans District 4 Director Tony Tavares said. No further closures are expected on the span Saturday or Sunday.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Caltrans engineers continue to monitor the bridge until the permanent repair is made,” Tavares said.
The repairs next week are contingent upon the weather and are expected to take place between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. to accommodate commuters, officials said.
The failure of an expansion joint on the upper level of the span caused a large chunk of concrete to fall Thursday morning on a Mercedes Benz and the bridge was closed in both directions.
More concrete fell in the afternoon, when vehicles started crossing the bridge again and the bridge was closed again around 4 p.m. It reopened later at 8 p.m.
The nine-hour closure caused massive backups around the Bay Area.
“I mean it’s a major thoroughfare. I mean, the traffic through here when it was closed was horrible. [Highway] 37 was backed up. People don’t have many options,” said Mark Kroncke who lives in San Rafael.
Caltrans estimates more than 100,000 cars go across the bridge every day. The concrete failed at an expansion joint that was installed in 1956. That joint was inspected less than a year ago and crews did not report any issues.
Early Saturday morning, Caltrans replaced a 6-foot plate covering the joint on the upper deck with a larger 8-foot plate.
“It helps with distributing the load of these vehicles a little bit better across the concrete slabs that are on the upper deck,” said Tavares.
Now Rodriguez said he’d rather avoid driving across the bridge altogether.
“If you just put a band-aid on it, what’s going to happen next? The bridge is going to fall completely? It’s crazy and it’s just scary as well,” said Rodriguez.
© 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed