Army Corps of Engineers approve new Bay Bridge repair designs

By Kelly Yamanouchi Associated Press Writer
Saturday October 28, 2000

Findings from half-million-dollar study give go-ahead for next year 


SAN FRANCISCO – A seismic safety examination of plans for a new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has determined that the state Department of Transportation is on its way to designing a seismically safe bridge. 

A team of 25 engineers and scientists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the report Friday. 

The Army Corps’ findings are the result of a $500,000 two-phase study commissioned by the city of San Francisco and the state to help resolve the bitter and costly dispute over how to make the 65-year-old bridge withstand an earthquake. 

The Army Corps determined in September, after a first phase of the seismic safety study, that the eastern span of the bridge needs to be replaced, not repaired.  

But the findings of the second phase, which studied whether the current design meets seismic criteria, are less clear. 

The Army Corps said it did not have the data to evaluate the bridge according to a set of earthquake criteria it was asked to use, but expressed faith in Caltrans’ designers. 

Caltrans is “moving along a path to design a bridge that meets the seismic performance criteria,” the report states. 

“They’ve got the right kind of people with the right kind of knowledge and the design procedures they’re following appear to be on a path to meet the criteria they’ve established,” said Jim Taylor, an Army Corps spokesman. 

Part of the problem in the evaluation of data, according to the Army Corps, is that Caltrans is designing the bridge according to one set of earthquake standards, and the Army Corps was asked to evaluate it on a different set. 

Caltrans spokesman Dennis Trujillo said the difference between the two sets of criteria “is like inches versus centimeters — it’s a different methodology.” 

The Army Corps’ report said the quake it used to evaluate Caltrans’ plans would be larger than the quake Caltrans is designing the bridge to withstand. 

Trujillo said the report has not changed Caltrans’ plans for the new span, and that it will continue the process. 

The Army Corps spent four months evaluating 75,000 pages of data that Caltrans has drawn up for its plans so far. Construction on the four-year project could begin as soon as next year.