San Francisco’s 73-year old Bay Bridge partially collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. As a result, a seismic upgrade project was planned. The bridge closed Thursday night, September 3rd, 2009, as part of the upgrade project. Authorities conducted a thorough inspection of the bridge while it was closed. During this inspection, an eyebar was found to be cracked about halfway through.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, “The crack is significant enough to have closed the bridge on its own” says Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney. Thus the area quickly made plans for repairing the bridge, which would necessitate closing it for longer than just Labor Day weekend, as planned. However, commuters received a pleasant surprise when the bridge opened at about 6:30 on Tuesday morning, less than two hours after originally planned (before the cracked eyebar was discovered).Construction crews worked around the clock to get the bridge repaired and inspected before morning rush hour.
Was it worth the rush? Ask the 260,000 commuters who normally cross the bridge every day. However, local transit officials did not rely on the bridge opening on time. Instead, they made other arrangements, including adding high-speed catamarans to the ferry line-up.
This is an excellent demonstration of the use of “Plan B”, or implementing multiple solutions for issues with great impacts to the goals. In this case, the repairs were necessitated by the possible loss of the bridge – certainly an impact to the goals of a transit authority. The accelerated repair schedule and additional transit options were necessitated by the potential loss of the bridge as a transportation route during high traffic-volume times, resulting in an impact to the customer service goal.