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What Happened To the Bay Bridge?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the span-in-the-works dept.

Transportation 407

farnsworth writes "Tony Alfrey has put together a fascinating page with some history, analysis, and possible explanations for what ultimately went wrong with the recent emergency repair of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The bridge has been closed for days and is not scheduled to open for days to come, hugely inconveniencing more than 250,000 people a day. His analysis touches on possibly poor welding, a possibly flawed temporary fix, and the absence of a long-term fix or adequate follow-up by Caltrans, the agency responsible for the bridge. Slashdot is a great engineering community; what other insights do you have on the bridge situation?"

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First Failure (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936055)

Forgot to fasten those cables, eh?

What happened to the Bay Bridge? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936719)

It's simple, really. God has lifted his veil of protection over the city of San Francisco because He is angry about the needle drugs, the cannabis dispensaries, and the faggots running amok. San Francisco has been flouting God's laws for well over three decades. I mean faggots have PARADES there! It's disgusting, and it's evil.

still dead! (3, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936061)

For several work mornings the headline on "the new" has been "Bay Bridge still closed."

In my head I hear it in the voice of Chevy Chase.

"General Francisco Franco is still dead!"

Re:still dead! (4, Funny)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936063)

Slashdot is a great engineering community

He must be new here;)

Re:still dead! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936107)

Developers are just engineers of software!

Re:still dead! (4, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936271)

He must be old here.

Re:still dead! (4, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936509)

    Aw, everyone knows Slashdot is full of experts. Even if we don't know what we're talking about, we'll still pretend to be experts. Well, until a real expert speaks up and makes us look stupid. :)

You haven't seen anything yet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936069)

On November 10, undersized gusset plates, increased concrete surfacing load, and weight of construction supplies/equipment are going to cause an outright collapse the likes of which have never been seen. That's what you get for building on fluvial ground. The saving grace will be that nobody is on it!

Speaking as the owner, I'm furious (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936077)

Four years ago I bought that bridge along with a package of subprime mortgages to highly qualified homeowners.

Re:Speaking as the owner, I'm furious (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936607)

hurrr durr, the bridge must've been running Windoze! LOL!

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936085)

Slashdot is a great engineering community

With all due respect, I think you should reconsider your assertion.

INAE (0)

neoform (551705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936089)

I'm not an engineer, but I suspect there was a lot of cost cutting going on by all parties involved.

Duh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936145)

That's what a bridge IS. Alexander did it the expensive way when he went to Tyre, and every single bridge since then is an attempt to connect two places further apart, or more cheaply, or, often, both.

What Happened To the Bay Bridge? (-1, Flamebait)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936425)

I suspect that California educated engineers had a lot to do with the problem. A panel had to decide how to fix the problem. The panel was composed, by law, of one gay, one lesbian, one transvestite, one Mormon, one Moslem, one Black, one Hispanic - the list goes on and on. And, among the engineers, the various engineering disciplines had representation, including the Doctors of Basketweaving from Berkeley.

Its not hard to understand why the bridge is falling apart.

Bridges?? Let me tell you about World of Warcraft! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936109)

Dunno much about bridges, but I can tell you a lot about ramping elven fighter-mages up to 86th level in WoW!!!

No worries about the Bay Bridge! (1, Funny)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936111)

If you're interested, I can get you a great deal on a used bridge here in NY to replace it. Shipping and handling from Long Island not included.

And where did the retro-fit funds go? (5, Interesting)

ttimes (534696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936113)

McSweeny's has a great article on this, broad reaching in its investigation of the many problems at hand. One thing that troubles me: I have seen many times in the California University and Transportation groups, failure to use earthquake retro-fit funds - they simply use them elsewhere. Its only when a problem like this arises that we learn they have not been used.

Re:And where did the retro-fit funds go? (2, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936521)

Where did they go? Elsewhere.

Children have been pulling this scam since money existed and they were given money. Give them some lunch money and watch them go and spend it on something non-lunch related, then come back and cry to their parents saying they don't have lunch money. So you can be a heartless parent and make them go hungry and get laughed at by their friends but learn their lesson, or you can give them some more money so that their behavior is reinforced.

Obviously a child being hungry for one day is somewhat less on the 'bad things' scale than thousands of people having to drive an hour away to get across the bay. We can't throw all of these civilians to the wolves and fuck up their lives for years to come, but we can't reward the behavior by just giving them more money. Perhaps the governator needs to install an oversight group to make sure that earmarked funds are used for exactly what they're earmarked for.

Temporary fix insufficent (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936119)

They should have used duct-tape!

Re:Temporary fix insufficent (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936597)

Curb your enthusiasm. That'd be like shooting a million dollar cruise missile to take out $10 tent.

Looks like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936121)

Nobody is going to want to purchase it any time soon. Just the latest victim of our current economy I guess.

Rushed (2, Insightful)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936123)

Things like this can't be rushed, plain and simple. Carefully executed planning is what's needed to take on these types of projects.

Sure the commuters will have to wait a little bit longer while repairs are done, but it sure beats the mess they're in now.

Made in China (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936127)

Cal Trans designed and Chinese built. nuff said.

Re:Made in China (2, Informative)

Alex Zepeda (10955) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936513)

The failed part was fabricated in Arizona.

Re:Made in China (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936551)

Haven't you heard? That's part of China now.

It's how the state balanced their budget.

#1 Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936129)


Engineers still don't understand it at the quantum level, but rest assured, gravity did it.

small (5, Insightful)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936133)

The USA is small. Think bigger than just the 250k people. The whole infrastructure in the USA is lagging in maintenance, care, repairs and/or replacements. The USA needs trillions to fix this problem but other shenanigans of course have higher priorities. P

Re:small (5, Funny)

neoform (551705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936333)

The US spends $1.15 trillion a year on 'Defense', only bleeding heart liberals would want to waste any of that money on silly things like infrastructure.

Re:small (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936371)

...or an unnecessary government run Health Care provider.

Re:small (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936475)

Amazingly, if the US were to stop picking fights with other nations in the world, they would find that they could safely reduce their military budget.

Obligatory disclaimer: I do *NOT* think that withdrawing from Afghanistan or Iraq would be a good idea right now. The damage is done, and if you tried to leave now, there'd be a hell of a shitstorm that could end up putting somebody worse than the last government in power when the dust settles. But I do think that it's asinine to make a blanket statement that anybody who feels that the military budget should be reduced is a "bleeding heart liberal". That's like saying that everybody who disagrees with the presidency is a right-wing bible-thumping neo-con. As fun as it might be to make the comparison, it's hardly realistic.

Re:small (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936481)

Or heaven forbid, paying down the national debt.

Re:small (-1, Flamebait)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936553)

Given that the bridge essentially spans the distance between Berkeley (perhaps the most liberal city in the country) and San Francisco (which happens to be the home of Nancy Pelosi and a reliably democratic district. They had an initiative on the ballot to name a sewage treatment plant after George Bush), it seems silly to say it has anything to do with 'liberals' or 'conservatives' and everything to do with politicians wanting to spend every cent they can.

To turn it the other way, if San Francisco hadn't decided to provide sex-change surgery for any city employee who wants one, they may have had money to fix their bridge.

It was nice when Bush was in office to have democrats talking about fiscal responsibility, but now that they have power, they seem determined to spend just as much as he did, if not more.

Re:small (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936569)

The irony of this statement is that bridge building is probably part of that $1.15 trillion spent on "Defense". There's probably a lot of other infrastructure in that huge price tag. Things like federal law enforcement, infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, air flight, etc.

Re:small (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936713)

Infrastructure is primarily paid for by the individual states, not the federal government. What the US federal government does or does not spend is largely irrelevant; it is not as though the individual states have 'defense' as major line items.

Re:small (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936495)

Like dealing with the aftermath of Libertarian Wealth Redistribution brought to you by Ayn Rand loving Alan Greenspan and his Investment Bankster Cronies, AKA "The Roving Cavaliers of Credit"...

Re:small (1)

eatspoop (1604225) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936529)

Are you from another country? The infrastructure here is fine.

Re:small (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936589)

"Are you from another country? The infrastructure here is fine."

By what standards, exactly? The people from other countries tend to have higher standards than our clueless denizens who can't be bothered to open an engineering text. How many US citizens graduate with advanced degrees in engineering? How many graduates of MIT and other top level schools are from India, Pakistan, China, or even freaking CUBA?

The infrastructure here does suck, because we keep electing one of two parties, each of which uses our tax dollars for pork barrel projects, rather than real maintenance and improvement. How 'bout that famous "Bridge to Nowhere", made famous by Sarah Palin?

Re:small (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936611)

well your off in a lot of ways.

he USA is 300 million people in a land area the size of Europe who has a population of 700 million plus.

So not only are you off to start with you are making random assumptions. Sure there is a lot of engineering work that the USA needs to update. however since we have a fraction of the population that most land areas have we have to do more with less.

Besides having been through europe. The american system is at least 3 centuries more advanced than some of the roads, and bridges in europe where it is common for one vehicle to use it at a time s they are designed for horses not people.

My insight (0, Troll)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936135)

It opened in 1936. It's been up for 73 years. I'm surprised it hasn't fallen into the ocean with all the corrosion problems yet -- it should have been retired decades ago and only survives because it is a landmark, not because it is soundly built.

Re:My insight (4, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936287)

The Oakland Bay Bridge isn't much of a landmark, really. In any case, it is *extremely* important to note that the western span of the Bay Bridge, which is a suspension bridge, is perfectly sound, as is the landmark (but less used) Golden Gate Bridge. All of these problems are with the eastern span, which is a cantilever bridge.

Re:My insight (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936665)

It may not be a pretty "landmark" like Golden Gate Bridge, but it is the most important one in Bay Area, certainly way more than the GG.

MY insight, as an engineer (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936385)

The real problem is that we should recognize that bridges, and especially landmark bridges, stay standing indefinitely and should therefore quit designing the damn things with puny 50-year design lives!

whoa (3, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936159)

I knew people had been talking about the state falling apart due to budget problems, but i didnt think they meant it literally

Lets see here... (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936167)

Lets see, when you have a pretty much bankrupt state (California), a bridge that is too necessary to fully replace without inconveniencing many people, the fact that it isn't exactly in a stable environment, with wind, rain and corrosion everywhere is it any surprise that a bridge that has been up for over 70 years needs some emergency repairs?

Re:Lets see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936337)

Yes. Remember, this is California. They're always surprised by the obvious.

Re:Lets see here... (4, Informative)

glsunder (241984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936417)

"In 2003, Californians sent $50 billion more to Washington in federal taxes than the state received in federal expenditures. Representing a slight increase from levels that have held steady for three preceding years, the Golden State’s imbalance set a new record for any state, surpassing the previous mark (set also by California, in 2000 and 2001) of $48 billion." []

Maybe if that weren't the case, California wouldn't be so broke right now.

Re:Lets see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936667)

They're in the process of replacing the entire eastern span, by building another one adjacent to the old one. It's a good thing they've already started (a bit late, but better late than never) because who knows how long the old one will last.

Wrong audience (5, Funny)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936169)

Slashdot is a great engineering community; what other insights do you have on the bridge situation?

No, Slashdot is mostly made up of computer janitors; the greatest insight you'll get out of most of the posters here is, "hurrr durr, the bridge must've been running Windoze! LOL!", with maybe a little "omg the twin towers were collapsed by EXPLOSIVES!!!!"-style conspiracy theory and "THE GOVERNMENT IS BAD!!!" braindead libertarianism thrown in for color.

Re:Wrong audience (1)

Stele (9443) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936369)

I accidentally picked the wrong moderator item, so I'm responding here to back out.

I would have picked Insightful.

Re:Wrong audience (1)

shellster_dude (1261444) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936387)

I think your name, speaks for it's self in regards to your post.

What engineering is really about. (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936577)

No, Slashdot is mostly made up of computer janitors.

I do get that feeling now and then.

Many years ago, I went to a serious engineering school. There, the final exam in a course in structural engineering was this:

At the final exam, each student had to design a link to attach two pins some distance apart. There were obstacles between the pins and the link had to go around then. The design was to be for a specified grade of aluminum and had to support a specified load. Students knew in advance what the exam would be, except for where the obstacles would be. For the exam, you sat at a drafting table, and turned in a drawing.

The link you designed was then machined out of aluminum by a machinist. It was put in a testing machine and placed under the specified load. If the link broke, you failed the course.

If the link didn't break, it was weighed. Lower weights yielded higher grades for the course.

This is how good structural engineers are trained. (I'm not one. I was in EE/CS, and we had a different make-or-break exam.)

Re:Wrong audience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936645)

How the hell did this get positively modded? It's so blah, I wouldn't buy it for a dollar.

Re:Wrong audience (0)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936687)

"omg the twin towers were collapsed by EXPLOSIVES!!!!"

No, the twin Towers collapsed from aeroplane impacts into structures previously *promised by an engineer* to withstand aeroplane impacts.

Conspiracy no, bungling engineer at worst.

Lack of redundancy (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936171)

San France should have two bridges (or a secondary tunnel), so if one fails or needs repair, the second can still be used. In Baltimore we have two tunnels and one bridge over the harbor, so if one fails the traffic can be diverted on the other two routes. Redundancy.

In between D.C. and Baltimore we even have three parallel highways - I-95 and 295 and US-1. One might be closed but the other two will still be usable.

Re:Lack of redundancy (3, Informative)

ximenes (10) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936203)

There are four bridges running east/west over the bay, it just happens that there is only one in this particular (useful) location. Also, given that the Bay Bridge has to connect to Yerba Buena island, there's not really a lot of room for another one right next to it. So there is redundancy, but you have to deal with the physical realities of the area.

Re:Lack of redundancy (4, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936261)

Actually, they are currently building another bridge right next to it. These fixes are all to a structure that they hope to retire in a few years.

Re:Lack of redundancy (1)

gilroy (155262) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936277)

There are four bridges running east/west over the bay

But only one leads to the Playtronics factory [] where the MacGuffinn is held...

Re:Lack of redundancy (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936301)

Damn that MacGuffinn. I've been chasing it all these years and I've never seen the wretched thing.

Re:Lack of redundancy (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936309)

You could always use a ferry to get to YB Island. When it comes to adding a second bridge, that's too small a population to worry about.

Re:Lack of redundancy (2, Interesting)

ximenes (10) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936397)

I was under the impression that the bridge had to go through Yerba Buena not to serve the island population (who are only there because the bridge makes it convenient I imagine), but because the bay is too deep and without a firm bedrock to otherwise locate the middle section of the bridge securely.

Possibly that was only a concern when it was originally built, but regardless, you would essentially need to route it in the same path as otherwise you'd need a new landing point on the Oakland side and there's Alameda in the way.

Re:Lack of redundancy (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936255)

In between D.C. and Baltimore we even have three parallel highways - I-95 and 295 and US-1. One might be closed but the other two will still be usable.

That's stretching it, even on a good day when all 3 are open!

(If you drive through/around DC even occasionally, you'll know that I'm not speaking in hyperbole. Also, there's been a whole ton of construction lately on all 3, which is making the beltway even more treacherous than it usually is...not helped by the fact that the people who drive on it seem to drive either 40 or 80 mph, with no regard to which lane they're doing it in. I swear that road was designed to maximize the number of accidents that occur on it)

Re:Lack of redundancy (2, Informative)

Isaac-Lew (623) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936403)

It really irritates me when I-95 between Baltimore & DC is referred to as "the Beltway". There are TWO separate beltways in the area: the Baltimore Beltway [] circling Baltimore, & the Capital Beltway [] circling DC.

Re:Lack of redundancy (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936517)

In my experience most of the problems are in the northern half of D.C.'s Beltway. The area between D.C. and Baltimore might slowsdown but it never completely stops (except accidents of course). And Baltimore's beltway is good except for the area around I-83 (which is a poor design).

A couple times I've suggested extending I-85 up to Philadelphia and beyond, so as to provide an alternate route for traffic (especially truckers who are going straight through from Richmond-to-Philly without stopping), but neither the Congress nor the AAA seems to hear. Oh well.

Re:Lack of redundancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936601)

Of course, no one gives a shit about Baltimore, so whenever someone refers to "the Beltway" they mean the Capital Beltway.

Re:Lack of redundancy (5, Informative)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936323)

The Bay Bridge is not the only way from Oakland to San Francisco, there's the Richmond-San Rafael bridge to the North and San Mateo bridge to the south. There's also BART and various ferries and worst case scenario a trip through the South Bay and then up the peninsula. There's lots of ways into the city even if one of the bridges is out of service for some reason. The past two labor day weekends the Bay Bridge was shut down for repairs (the latest of which apparently caused the current problems).

The positioning of the Bay Bridge is limited by the layout of both San Francisco and Oakland. The Bay Bridge already spans one of the narrowest points between the cities and is bisected by Yerba Buena Island to reduce the effective length of the individual spans. There's nowhere else to really put another bridge in the area. There's no other spots with convenient freeway locations on both sides of the bay which would require whole new sections of freeways be build which means buying out a whole bunch of land that people already live on and a host of other problems. This construction would be in addition to building a whole new bridge.

Re:Lack of redundancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936431)

Uhh, yep, you know your geography well...

Government Bridge (1)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936189)

A private one would have been more Ron Paul

Re:Government Bridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936447)

When states start digging up their streets and converting many of them into gravel roads to "save money" it's no surprise that there's a lot of people who question what the hell the states were thinking.

There *IS* redundancy. (3, Informative)

barfy (256323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936205)

People use other bridges and the bart.

To say there isn't redundancy, is simply silly.

Re:There *IS* redundancy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936237)

You might want to quote the bit claiming there isn't redundancy, otherwise your post looks like a straw man.

Caltrans Says (5, Informative)

tlord (703093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936211)

The engineering authority in charge of the bridge and repairs already gave their answer to this on the morning news (yesterday, I think):

They found the crack. They designed the "band-aid": the saddle, T-bar, rods, etc. They had it fabricated and installed.

In subsequent days, they went back up to look at how it was doing. They found that it was vibrating more than they thought it should: it wasn't as rigid as it was designed to be. They recognized that this would lead to fatigue and failure.

They began designing the improved "band-aid" and planned to install it sometime in coming weeks.

To their surprise, *perhaps* related to unusually high winds, the system failed sooner than they thought it could.

The completed their improved design and are now installing it. (And they are counting their blessings that nobody was killed: they got lucky, that way.)


Re:Caltrans Says (3, Interesting)

ctmurray (1475885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936383)

At least when they found the flaw they recognized the danger and attempted to fix before the bridge fell down. [] . The I35 bridge gusset plates were seen years earlier to be warping and this clue was missed.

Closing the bridge makes it 100% safe (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936217)

If their goal was to improve the safety of the bridge, then they totally succeeded.

There simply isn't anything "wrong". (1)

barfy (256323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936225)

It is old, 73 years, and may take a few days to identify and repair especially after first attempt failed.

Who says anything is wrong?

This all seems perfectly normal.

(I like the fact that many people here would rather their be multi-billion dollar solutions, rather than this is simply how it is).

Re:There simply isn't anything "wrong". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936241)

The Romans called and would like a word with you.

Re:There simply isn't anything "wrong". (3, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936245)

As far as I'm concerned, if a piece of a bridge that has active traffic on it falls off, putting people on the bridge in danger, something went wrong SOMEWHERE.

Re:There simply isn't anything "wrong". (0, Flamebait)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936399)

Yeah, but there is also a big "shit happens" component to the whole thing. Sometimes, shit just happens-- even if everybody does their job to the best of their ability, even if everything works exactly as designed, sometimes shit just happens.

Of course, being an American, you have to instantly assign blame and sue somebody, God knows.

Bay bridge fix (1)

globalsnake (1345027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936231)

According to the pics it seems evident to me that the cause of the crack is due to compression forces, if it was do to tension the crack would be on the top. The beam is able to rotate and shares both compression and tension forces depending on the load at the time. By using their solution and tension rods is an adequate solution for tension but the reinforcement is needed in compression so tension rods will not work, you would need something to handle the same compression forces that the beam is supposed to handle and you would need to weld it in a manner that the weld is not under stress while experiencing compression. The fix came of because the rods may be adequate to handle the tension forces, but when under compression the complete rig can come flying off even if welded. Tell them to email me I need work, not a PE but I do have a bit of experience and am able to work as a civil engineer. Tell them to send me an email at not 22 just personal email that I hardly use due to spam.

Re:Bay bridge fix (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936291)

Thank goodness you're here! Judd Ascrak has been welding on this thing all night and I'm starting to think we need someone with... a bit of experience who is able to work as a civil engineer. We've been staring at our torch tips all night wondering if we should place an ad or try craigslist.

I asked them to give you a call. Our IT guy has a bit of experience using a phone, so I'll have him set up the connection.

who gives a crap? (0, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936295)

"inconveniencing 250,000 people" - who cares, other than those people? How is this news, or even news for nerds?

Welders are a scapegoat (5, Interesting)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936305)

As a hobbyist welder, and someone who has worked with welders in an industrial setting, I strongly doubt that the welding is the culprit. "Faulty welding" doesn't happen on something of the scale of a bridge. If it's one welder working, maybe. But this bridge repair would have had dozens of welders working. No one person's welding could have broken a bridge. Sure, they were under a time crunch, but that doesn't result in shoddy welds. It means more welders are put on task. Those guys are trained and certified and their work is defined by specs that they follow and then is inspected by city or state engineers. If the welding is the problem, it means the original spec was faulty.


Re:Welders are a scapegoat (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936377)

I heard the welds failed because the imported steel was of inferior quality and could not hold the welds.

Re:Welders are a scapegoat (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936467)

It wasn't the whole bridge that failed, it was a little support brace that was added to fix an earlier crack in the bridge. It wasn't a huge piece and very well could have been the work of a single worker.

Re:Welders are a scapegoat (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936491)

welds, even properly done welds, tend to be significantly weaker and more brittle than a typical solid piece of unwelded material. The subsequent temporary fixes that they tried failed before they were designed to which suggests that they may not have built in enough redundancy on the structure as they should have. It could just be a case where they over-estimated the strength of these welds and decided to cut a few corners on the design its self.

Re:Welders are a scapegoat (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936625)

I've seen the steal break many a time before the welds do.. Depending on what you're welding, what you're welding with, most welds are far stronger than the material they are welding together...

Re:Welders are a scapegoat (5, Informative)

Snowblindeye (1085701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936571)

I strongly doubt that the welding is the culprit. "Faulty welding" doesn't happen on something of the scale of a bridge.

You're right on. If the author of the article would have watched any of the Caltrans news conferences, they would have answered some of his theories.

The weld that he claims failed was clearly described as only being tacked, not structurally welded. That weld wasn't supposed to hold the structure together, the tie rods were, which failed. One of the improvements they are making now is to replace the tacking with a structural weld, so that even if something broke, these pieces won't come apart. The other improvements center around reducing vibration, especially in the tie rods

Who wrote that article anyway? Some guy on the internet who looks at some pictures of the repair and thinks he knows what a bunch of engineers working on the problem didn't know?

What happened indeed (5, Informative)

hardihoot (1044510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936313)

Perhaps if the state of California hadn't diverted transportation funds and had actually used the money to maintain its infrastructure (similar to New Orleans not using its allocated money to maintain the levee system) this probably would not have happened.

Raids of Public Transportation Funds []

Ruling on a case started in 2007 by the California Transit Association, the California Appeals Court found that the gimmicks used to reroute public transit funding to other programs were not consistent with voters' intent for the funds to be spent on public transportation

nearly $2.5 billion was diverted away from transportation programs []

Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (2, Insightful)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936395)

Meanwhile, in Segovia (Spain), the Roman aqueduct is still up & running : []

Without mortar, with just granite blocks on top of each other, it is more than 2000 years old.
I can't help but wonder when mankind began to suck at building anything that should last more than a few years....

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936485)

Find me a Roman Bridge designed to handle the equivalent of 270,000 cars a day over a distance of several miles.

Yeah, not quite the same task is it?

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (3, Insightful)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936523)

Not to take anything away from the impressive feat of engineering that the Roman aqueducts are but there is a big difference between carrying water and carrying 250,000 vehicles ranging between 1 and 50+ tons. Also, the Romans didn't really have to worry about costs seeing as the aqueducts were more than likely built by slave labor.

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (4, Informative)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936605)

You have no clue what you're taking about. Roman legionaries (who were paid) and paid laborers were used to build Roman infrastructure.

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936609)

When we decided that building out of concrete and steal is cheaper and easier than chiseling out huge granite chunks of rock. We still could build things that last like that aqueduct, if we were willing to pay for it, we just find it is cheaper to use easier materials and then pay maintenance costs.

The Segovia aqueduct needs maintenance too, unfortunately.

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (2, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936661)

Roman Aqueducts were made of stone. The bridges in San Francisco were made of steel.

Stone erodes. This takes a long time. The erosion can be seen on the original stones in the aqueduct you mentionned. It is happening, slowly but surely, and eventually, if not properly maintained, the aqueduct will collapse. (parts of it have already collapsed, and been repaired... it's in the Wiki you linked, even.)

Steel corrodes. Unlike erosion, corrosion happens relatively quickly. Again, with proper maintenance, it can be mitigated, but it doesn't take long at all for it to become a significant issue. Like erosion, corrosion happens mostly on the surfaces, but water and other catalysts for erosion have a way of getting into cracks and crevasses, and eroding smaller things like bolts and rivets, which can't really be seen without taking the bridge apart.

When you can show me a way to build a mile-long suspension bridge out of stone, I'll be listening.

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936707)

Though the aqueduct at Segovia is very impressive, it wouldn't last long in earthquake-infested California.

Re:Meanwhile, in Segovia.... (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936715)

Meanwhile, in Segovia (Spain), the Roman aqueduct is still up & running : []

Without mortar, with just granite blocks on top of each other, it is more than 2000 years old. I can't help but wonder when mankind began to suck at building anything that should last more than a few years....

You have something of a point, sort of, but in addition to the problems pointed out by the other responses, you forgot to scroll down in that Wikipedia article and notice that the Aqueduct of Segovia has been reconstructed multiple times. Also note that we think of it as special because it's still there, whereas most other aqueducts collapsed 100-1600 years ago.

RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936409)

Send the RIAA in to fix it. I mean, they have the money... right? They could actually do something constructive with their time and finances.


Don't blame the three caltrans employees (3, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936435)

It took me a while to figure out but then I realized: CALTRANS only actually employes three guys.

Driving the 15 in San Diego, I wondered why there were all these construction sites with absolutely no one working. Eventually I pieced it together... CALTRANS only employs three guys and one of those has to hold the sign.

Sure, they could just do one tiny little roadwork at a time. But that'd completely give away the hundreds of millions CALTRANS budget is being spent on three construction workers with the rest going to hookers and blow. Instead, they dump cones everywhere, dig holes everywhere, then quickly move on to the next site. Sure, you'll never actually see a CALTRANS guy working but it sure as hell looks like they must have a lot of people doing the work if they can dig up that much crap and have roadworks every couple of hundred yards.

So, when judging the bridge collapse, try not to blame the three overworked guys. They're doing the best they can. Their job was to put up some cones, slap on some duct tape in the two minutes they had assigned, then get on to making somewhere else look busy. If you want to blame someone, figure out who spends the other 99.9% on those hookers and that blow. Imagine how much could be achieved if his habit went to pay for actual workers instead.

Closed for DAYS? Lucky California. (4, Informative)

sajuuk (1371145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936441)

Consider yourself lucky Californians. Us dwellers of Northern New York have a much bigger problem than you have if we want to get to Vermont. The NY DoT let the Crown Point Bridge, one of only two bridges across Lake Champlain fall into utter disrepair and it is now closed indefinitely. The shortest 'detour' to go across the lake and into Vermont adds around 100 miles to the trip, just to get to the crossing.

Difference in materials (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29936603)

I heard the problem was the weld between old and new steel. Temperature change caused the materials to contract or expand and, being slightly different, they changed at different rates, breaking the weld.

I don't understand why people drive into SF anyway (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936677)

The city is so nice and uncongested today. I don't own a car, so admittedly I am very biased, but I would be quite content just to leave the bridge closed. Plus it puts the focus on public transit, where a compact city like SF should be focused. For example, BART (the subway) is running 24 hour service this weekend. As strange as it may sound, despite being an urban environment we don't have 24 hour subway service normally!!!
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