Bay Bridge Closure Threatens Nightmare Commute One of the busiest bridges in the nation will be out of commission at the start of Tuesday's morning commute. In California, workers are scrambling to repair a crack discovered over the weekend on the bay bridge that connects Oakland and San Francisco.
NPR logo

Bay Bridge Closure Threatens Nightmare Commute

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/112627591/112626470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Bay Bridge Closure Threatens Nightmare Commute

Bay Bridge Closure Threatens Nightmare Commute

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/112627591/112626470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NOAH ADAMS, host:

One of the busiest bridges in the nation will be out of commission tomorrow morning. In California, workers are scrambling to repair a crack discovered over the weekend on the Bay Bridge that connects Oakland and San Francisco.

A spokesman for California's Department of Transportation says crews are facing unprecedented logistical challenges getting parts in place for an unexpected repair.

Unidentified Man: It has been a tremendous effort at this point to just get everything here, get it inspected, and get the work crews working. And what they're doing right now is basically working 120 feet in the air, putting these saddles and rods in place so that the repair can be completed.

ADAMS: That's one problem. A bigger one might be thousands of people in the Bay Area are figuring out how they'll get to work in what's expected to be a major commuting headache.

Joining us now from San Francisco is Kelly Wilkinson of member station KQED.

Kelly, the transportation officials held a news conference this evening. Why did they tell people living in the Bay Area that they could actually look forward to tomorrow morning?

KELLY WILKINSON: Well, they told them that they could not look forward to the bridge reopening tomorrow as scheduled. They were hoping to have the Bay Bridge open again by 5 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday morning. And they said that they are, at this point, they think they need one more full day. So we're now looking at a new target of Wednesday morning at 5 a.m. to have the Bay Bridge open.

This was closed for major seismic work this weekend. And this crack that they're still working on was a surprise. So it looks like they will have all of the massive construction that they had scheduled for this weekend done on time, but not the repairs to this crack that they discovered during a routine inspection of the bridge.

ADAMS: Now, will this be something new for the Bay Area commuters? Have they had a closed-down-Bay-Bridge situation before?

WILKINSON: We have had a closed-down bridge before - once in a Loma Prieta earthquake 20 years ago. That, of course, was after a massive earthquake and a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed. Ever since then, they've been working on a new eastern span of the bridge. And that's what all of this work has been about. This is the third time in four years that the Bay Bridge has been closed.

But of course, Transportation officials have had plenty of time to get the word out and ask people to make other plans for getting in and out of the city, in and out of work. So, now they're looking at a matter of hours and asking people and Transportation agencies, buses, and ferries and trains to come up with contingency plans.

ADAMS: What kind of measures are they taking to expedite the repair this weekend already?

WILKINSON: It's really been pretty extraordinary to watch. It's sort of like an infrastructure action movie out here. The repair that they did not expect kicked off a sprint to try and finish this. They were trying to open it again, of course, for tomorrow morning. They aren't making that target anymore. But they had to come up with a design on the fly for making a repair. They had a piece of steel - several pieces of steel manufactured in Arizona overnight.

They flew out here on a chartered DC-9 to get those materials out here, and those were escorted out to the Bay Bridge by California Highway Patrol. And they are working flat out right now to fit that and get that essentially as a splint that will be in place for a major support structure of the bridge.

So it's been, really, a whole weekend of pretty epic engineering and construction going on out here.

ADAMS: That's Kelly Wilkinson of member station KQED in San Francisco, talking about emergency repairs still underway to a crack on the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland.

The bridge will be shut down until at least Wednesday morning, creating a major commuting challenge for thousands of people in the Bay Area.

Thank you, Kelly.

WILKINSON: Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.