Probably for the first time in transportation history, Caltrans can technically say it finished a much-anticipated project ahead of schedule, albeit it was only seven hours ahead of schedule. Nevermind the fact that it was actually a decade late.
The new span of the Bay Bridge opened Monday at 10:18 p.m., hours before cars were supposed to start rolling across the bridge at 5 a.m. on Tuesday. It only took 11 1/2 years to complete the $6.4 billion eastern span, which boasts the world's largest self-anchored suspension span as well as a bike and pedestrian path.
Before letting a line of cars cross over the new span, politicos and bureaucrats got together for a chain-cutting ceremony, which consisted of a bunch of applause and back-patting over a project that has not been without its problems.
Authorities weren't even sure that they could get the bridge ready to go by the scheduled Sept. 3 date after a bunch of earthquake-important rods cracked, derailing the project and amassing cost overruns by the millions. The region's transportation committees went back-and-forth about whether the bridge could get a temporary fix in time for the scheduled Labor Day opening, or if crews should wait and do the permanent fix, which would delay the opening of the new span until at least December.
But the feds stepped in and approved of this temporary fix which required "shimming," or placing steel plates in between the bearings adjacent to the shear keys that are currently insecure. Combined with the other two shear keys that are functional, the bearings would provide all of the seismic safety necessary to move traffic onto the new span, authorities said.
Well, there's only one way to really find out.