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Bay Bridge project nears completion after 24 years

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

After nearly a quarter of a century later, San Franciscans can once again travel across the bay Bridge with renewed confidence. The Bay Bridge failure was the name given to the event when two 50-foot sections of the structure collapsed during the 1989 World Series. Costing $6.4 billion, the repairs were among the most costly in U.S. history - but travelers can now cross the bridge with new safety features.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta quake erupted just as the sports loving world tuned in to watch Game 3 of the \"Bay Bridge World Series\" between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. The quake killed 63 people and causing up to $10 billion in damage.

The project to make the bridge safe again is finally drawing to a close after decades of politicking, engineering challenges and billions in cost overruns. The new eastern part of the span should be ready to open this week after being closed for five days while crews rushed to put on finishing touches.

The scheduled opening of the reworked bridge was in jeopardy again this year after crews discovered dozens of defective rods used to anchor the roadway to important earthquake safety structures. The bridge will open with a temporary fix for these broken rods while the permanent repair, expected to be completed in December, is being installed.

The looming, ominous suspension bridge with a single white tower was originally designed to endure 150 years and withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.

Chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, Steve Heminger and the project's official watchdog said the span is orders of magnitude safer than the current crossing.

\"Some bridges in California have been built not to collapse in an earthquake, but they may be out of service,\" Heminger said. \"We couldn\'t have that with the Bay Bridge, which is not only pivotal to the economy but also plays a critical role in helping us recover.\"

\"I\'m not here to suggest that there weren\'t construction challenges along the way, but they have been dealt with.\"

The bridge replacement project overcame many hurdles over the past 24 years. In 1996, the California Department of Transportation\'s Seismic Advisory Board said the cost of replacing the old bridge would be comparable with retrofitting it. Caltrans then proposed building a simple concrete causeway, or an elevated freeway at a cost comparable to a retrofit.

Bay Area leaders lambasted that plan, as the area deserved a span that would complement the grandeur of the Golden Gate.

Officials say the public will come around to the new bridge. It is wider, with five roomy lanes on each section. The new span was also built with roadway shoulders, which will have room for stalled vehicles that will help improve traffic flow.

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