The bridge connecting San Francisco and the East Bay is reopening a day early on Tuesday after undergoing emergency structural repairs - a relief to commuters who had been dreading bottlenecks and delays along one of the busiest rush-hour corridors in the nation.
The California Department of Transportation announcement restores an earlier timeline for reopening the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge, which was pushed back over the long holiday weekend when crews discovered a significant crack Saturday while making other repairs.
After the crack was discovered, CDOT Director Randy Iwasaki had asked commuters for "patience" while the problem was fixed and set reopening for 5 a.m. Wednesday.
But early Tuesday, he said the bridge had been inspected, would be open at 7am PDT, and was "safer than when we closed it on Friday."
The department said some 280,000 vehicles cross the 73-year-old bridge each day. Although vital to commuters, the span is overshadowed by its more famous cousin, the Golden Gate Bridge.
The crack was discovered on a bridge beam Saturday but repair crews worked overtime to get the problem fixed. Had it taken longer, it would have been first time the bridge was closed on a working day since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, when a section of the bridge collapsed.
The bridge had originally been closed so that a football-field-sized, 3,300-ton section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new, pre-built double-deck section. The work was part of a seismic upgrade and had to be completed 150 feet above the ground.
The new section connects the bridge with a short detour that will be used until a new east span is completed by 2013.
From NPR staff and wire services