After much handwringing over (allegedly) shoddy construction and slip-ups on the new East Span of the Bay Bridge, Caltrans has started implementing a cartoonish-sounding plan to protect the nearly 2,000 rods and bolts that are in danger of cracking due to exposure with the marine air: just put some grease on it.
The rods and bolts in question, remember, were deemed problematic because Caltrans originally allowed for harder steel to be used. 32 of the rods cracked while they were being tightened due to "hydrogen embrittlement" caused by exposure to the wet marine air. While those broken bolts were eventually fixed, there were still concerns that hundreds of other bolts and rods would be exposed to the elements and wouldn't live out their intended 150-year lifespan.
Enter: the "grease cap" plan, which sounds like something your dad would come up with in a moment of inspired handiness: basically, the transportation agency is sealing the bolts on the end of the rods using giant paint can-sized steel caps filled with grease to keep out moisture. Jeffrey Gorman, a corrosion expert who advises the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on the East Span project and originally suggested the fix a year ago called it "an excellent solution."
The fix does require some maintenance — the grease caps have to be inspected every few years — and it comes with a "cut-rate" price tag of nearly $1,000 per cap. Still, that's a great deal cheaper than the $10 million study Caltrans is currently running to decide whether the rest of the 2,000 bolts and rods are prone to snapping.