It's been a little over a month since CalTrans semi-officially decided to delay the opening of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge until December, and then a few days later they said, "Wait, hold up, there might be a temporary quick fix to this bolt problem so the whole thing won't fall in the bay if we happen to have an earthquake on September 4." They said they needed to learn more about this quick fix to the shear key apparatus (where a number of cracked steel bolts threaten the earthquake-safeness of the span). Now the Federal Highway Administration has given their signoff, saying the bridge should open on time and will be safe enough.

To be precise, they wrote in a memo, "We see no reason to delay opening the bridge to traffic prior to the shear key retrofit being complete."

The problem, just to recap, is that the cracked bolts cannot be removed and replaced because they are already encased in concrete in a critical piece of the suspension span (see a diagram here). A permanent fix to the problem involves wrapping the tops of the bolts with a "saddle" of steel cables which will then be anchored to a new casing of concrete. On July 10, members of the peer review panel who looked into the engineering issues surrounding the bolts revealed to the CalTrans board that there could be a quicker, temporary solution to put in place within weeks, in advance of the several months that the saddle solution will require to manufacture.

CalTrans and the peer review committee then looked to the FHA to give their approval of the quick fix, which they did. It sounds like a final decision about the opening will be made after a teleconference on Monday with the bridge committee. Meanwhile, CHP has already been staffing up in preparation for a Labor Day weekend closure of the bridge. You can see the full FHA memo here, via the Contra Costa Times.

As it was scheduled to before all the bolt brouhaha erupted, the bridge would then be closed for six days in both directions starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28, and reopen at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, September 3.

And, alas, those original plans for an enormous party in which people got to walk across the bridge have been scrapped. Basically because the party mood has long passed.

[CC Times]

All previous Bay Bridge coverage on SFist.