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Record-breaking San Francisco Bay bridge opens

Record-breaking San Francisco Bay bridge opens

Vehicles drive on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco, California September 2, 2013. Photo: Reuters/REUTERS/Stephen Lam

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world will open before Tuesday morning’s rush hour across San Francisco Bay, six years behind schedule and five times over budget.

The new $6 billion eastern section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, one of the busiest spans in the United States, is expected to be open on Tuesday for 280,000 daily commuters. The Bay Area Toll Authority said the bridge could open as soon as Monday night.

The San Francisco-to-Oakland bridge was shut to traffic last Wednesday to complete construction and build connections from the new eastern stretch to the existing toll plaza and the bay’s Yerba Buena Island.

The single-towered, 2,047-foot-long (634-metre) self-anchored main span is more than twice the length of the previous record holders, Japan’s Konohana Bridge and South Korea’s Yeongjong Grand Bridge, according to the Structurae engineering database.

A self-anchored suspension bridge has its main cables fixed to its deck. A traditional suspension bridge is anchored to the ground.

The opening follows years of delays prompted by design disputes, financial struggles and safety issues. It also comes two decades after its predecessor partly collapsed in a 1989 earthquake.

In March, a survey found that 32 of more than 2,300 steel rods used to help the 2.2-mile eastern span of the bridge withstand earthquakes were broken.

The cost of the retrofitting was estimated between $5 million and $10 million. Placeholder plate stabilizers are being used to keep the bridge open before the rods are permanently replaced in December.

The bridge will feature a single 525-foot tower and a bicycle path, points of contention when the bridge was being planned.

Once the new stretch is opened, it will take about three years to demolish the old span, bridge officials said in a statement.

The eastern section of the bridge reaches from Yerba Buena Island to Oakland. The western stretch links downtown San Francisco to the island.

The east span will include east- and westbound traffic on side-by-side decks. The west span will continue to have decks placed above and below one another.

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