One of the Bay Area's foremost experts on bridges tells SF Weekly t
hat the plan to stave off cracks on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge is both smart and prudent -- but he has nothing to say about its million-dollar price tag.
The Bay Area Toll Authority yesterday voted to award engineering firm T.Y. Lin International a $1 million contract
to design a system of dampers to mitigate the pounding of wind and traffic on the 73-year-old bridge. The firm will also design a device to repair a cracked eyebar that could be rapidly fabricated if needed. "It's not a bad idea to figure out how to damp vibrations and find some way to make repairs in a hurry," engineer Mark Ketchum
told us. "As for the $1 million -- I have no idea about that."
Last year, a cracked eyebar necessitated a quasi-improvised fix. That installation ruptured weeks later, resulting in another fix and a nearly weeklong closure.
If you divide a million bucks by a standard engineering rate of $150 an hour, it comes out to 6,667 man-hours for this job. While T.Y. Lin International is tasked with designing a series of dampers for the bridge, Ketchum notes that there are many types of dampers already extant and doubted a completely new device would have to be designed from scratch.
In any event, $1 million isn't nothing, but it's a lot less than the costs associated with an unforeseen bridge closure.
"When they fixed it in a hurry and it broke a month later, the reason they said it broke was they had to fix it in a hurry," says Ketchum. "So it's not a bad idea when you have a known problem to have a way to deal with it in-hand rather than burn the midnight oil." Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF