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Caltrans Defends Bay Bridge Steel Quality

Friday, September 1, 2017

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As the final structural work on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span is finished and the demolition of the old span’s last remaining piers commences, officials are addressing concerns about the quality of the steel used in the new bridge’s construction.

According to local reports, California Department of Transportation chief engineer Brian Maroney told reporters Tuesday (Aug. 29) that he was not concerned about tests of some discarded scraps that showed yield strengths far lower than those associated with 50 grade steel, which was required for the job.

Bay Bridge eastern span
Dllu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The $6.4 billion Bay Bridge eastern span replacement opened in 2013, but has been subject to structural repairs in the years since.

“It’s to be expected,” he told the San Jose Mercury-News. “The inside may have a lower yield strength, but it’s just as strong in ultimate strength.”

The pieces of steel that were tested were reportedly from poorly welded plates, and Maroney said the scraps were tested close to the welds, where the heat may have affected the yield strength in a limited area. Maroney also told reporters that other testing had confirmed previously that the steel used on the project was of the proper quality.

New Bridge, Repeated Repairs

The $6.4 billion Bay Bridge project was nominally complete in 2013, when the span opened to traffic, but structural repairs continued for years thereafter, adding millions of dollars to the overall cost of the job.

Months before the bridge was opened, more than 30 of the anchor rods were found to have broken. In early 2014, an inspection found hundreds of leaks in a supposedly watertight steel chamber supporting the bridge's suspension span. And in 2015, concerns were raised about corrosion risks on the bridge’s main suspension cable.

Last week, Caltrans announced that the implosion of the final remaining piers of the old Bay Bridge eastern span will take place over a series of weekends in September and October.

The old eastern span of the Bay Bridge was replaced due to concerns about its safety under earthquake conditions; part of the span infamously collapsed during 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, killing one driver. While the western span—a suspension bridge reaching from San Francisco to Yerba Buena—was retrofitted for seismic durability, Caltrans determined that the eastern span should simply be replaced.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Quality control; Steel

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