Bay Bridge to stay closed amid damage

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, closed after 5,000 pounds of metal broke off during rush hour earlier this week, won't reopen to traffic in time for this morning's commute, a California Department of Transportation spokesman said Wednesday.

The bridge, one of the region's major transportation arteries, has been out of commission since Tuesday evening, when metal rods and a cable fell into traffic, leaving one motorist with minor injuries.

The accident resurrected fears about the safety of a span that millions watching the 1989 World Series broadcast saw had failed during a major earthquake.

Tuesday's terrifying scene stirred anger over the constant delays and soaring costs of the still-unfinished new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which has become the largest public works project in California history.

"I thought I was going into the Bay," said Andrea Nelson, a marketing consultant and personal coach who saw the crossbar and two rods fall and bounce on the road ahead of her as she headed into San Francisco for dinner. She swerved and her car spun out as she ran over the rods, which gashed her tires.

"I have lost so much confidence in the experts, the millions of dollars that are being spent to reconstruct and build a new bridge," she said. "I just find it shocking and unacceptable."

Construction crews worked through Tuesday night fighting winds that gusted to 35 mph as they brought in heavy machinery to try to move the metal and make repairs. On Wednesday, the strong winds continued to hamper efforts to repair the bridge that carries about 280,000 cars each day.

California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney told reporters Wednesday evening he didn't know when traffic would again be allowed on the bridge.

The catalyst for a replacement span was the 1989 earthquake, which caused a 50-foot section of the bridge's upper deck to collapse onto the deck below, causing another section to give way.

The cost for replacing the bridge has grown to $7.2 billion with a 2013 opening.

The pieces that failed were parts of major repairs done last month after state inspectors discovered a crack in an "eyebar," an important structural beam. The rods that broke were holding a saddle-like cap that had been installed to strengthen the cracked eyebar.