San Francisco Bay Bridge In Danger Of Collapsing Under Its Own Weight

The new eastern span of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge carries some 270,000 cars every day, but now that cracks are starting to be found in the structural rods, experts have begun to question the bridge’s stability.

New reports show support rods with cracks in them, and experts are beginning to wonder if the country’s second busiest bridge is as structurally sound as advertised.

Berkeley engineer and corrosion expert Lisa Fulton told the San Francisco Chronicle the bridge could collapse without an earthquake.

“There doesn’t have to be a lot of force on those rods for them to break. That could indicate that we don’t need an earthquake for them to snap, that they are unreliable in the service loads that they are under now. It’s a portent of catastrophe.”

The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge was built to replace the part of the bridge that collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, but has faced construction problems almost from the start.

Originally billed at $1.1 billion, it was scheduled to open in 2003, but construction delays ballooned costs to $6.4 billion and kept the bridge from opening until 2013. That makes it the most expensive public works project in California history, according to San Francisco CBS.

The problem is the high strength steel structural tower rods designed to hold the bridge up and prevent it from collapsing in an earthquake.

Nearly every fastener and support rod has been exposed to salt water from the bay, and they’re starting to crack and fail because of engineering problems.

San Francisco Bay Bridge Structural Support Threatened
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: An aeriel view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on September 7, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It’s the same construction problem that cost $45 million to fix in 2013 when Caltrans discovered 32 rods had failed after being allowed to sit in salt water. The hydrogen in the water weakens the high-strength steel allowing cracks to develop.

The San Francisco Chronicle began exposing problems with the bridge’s stability years ago, but that didn’t stop officials from opening it despite the threats to public safety.

That’s because the Toll Bridge Project Oversight Committee, which took over management of the bridge’s construction in 2005, analyzed the problem and says the bridge is safe.

The agency says the new span is much safer than the old, despite any lingering concerns. It was designed as a “lifeline” to reopen quickly in case of an earthquake, so the city could receive need supplies and assistance.

Meanwhile, the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge is being laboriously deconstructed and hauled away.

Bay Bridge Rods Crack
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: An aeriel view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on September 7, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Golden Gate Bridge also underwent a series of safety upgrades this year. This time it wasn’t to support the bridge, but rather to stop the number of head on collisions. The bridge was closed for the first time over a weekend earlier this year to allow construction of a moveable barrier, according to the Inquisitr.

Experts will continue to debate the safety of the Bay Bridge while repair estimates continue.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan / Ezra Shaw / Getty Images]