OAKLAND -- Caltrans says it will put the $300 million demolition of the old Bay Bridge east span back on schedule by paying $12.7 million for extra labor and equipment.
The three- to five-year-long demolition project fell several months behind schedule out of the starting gate when Caltrans reallocated labor and resources to open the $6.4 billion new east span as soon as possible. It opened Sept. 2 after years of delays and cost overruns.
Caltrans said Monday it will regain the lost time by paying the contractor extra to simultaneously tear down both halves of the cantilever section of the bridge after crews cut it in half in the next three or four weeks.
The 1,400-foot-long cantilever section is about a quarter-mile east of Yerba Buena Island and has the tallest steel frames on the east side of the island.
"This will put the demolition project back on schedule," Caltrans spokesman Andrew Gordon said Monday in a media briefing and tour of the demolition site.
The gap between the two bridge sections eventually will become a dramatic piece of history and a photo opportunity, said Brian Maroney, a Caltrans engineer.
However, the gap will start out too small to even be noticed by the tens of thousands of motorists whizzing by on the new Bay Bridge.
"On the new bridge, you will miss it," Maroney said. "By summer, when you have 500 feet (in the gap), you will won't be able to miss it. People will tell their grandchildren that this is what they saw."
The demolition by a joint venture of California Engineering Contractors/Silverado Contractors is preparing for the big milestone starting late this month.
Crews with torches will cut the cantilever section in half after using hydraulic jacks to brace the two sections so they don't fall into the bay.
Gordon said Caltrans expects to recoup the extra $12.7 million over time because the time saved will open the door to finish other demolition work early to avoid delays imposed during sensitive times for bird nesting and fish and wildlife movement.
"We spend money now to save money later," Gordon said.
If demolition crews have to hold up work to protect birds, fish or mammals in the bay, it could trigger a series of delays, he said.
The demolition crews effectively are taking the bridge apart piece by piece in the reverse order that it was built in the 1930s.
Caltrans is reminding motorists not to stop their cars on the new Bay Bridge to see the spectacle or they risk accidents and traffic tickets.
Boats on the bay will provide the best views of the bridge gap, Maroney said, but noted a CHP boat will keep boaters from getting under the bridge.
Maroney said Caltrans also is considering the use of carefully targeted explosives to speed up removal of bridge pier sections underwater.
Planting an explosive in the right places might cause the pier sections to sink deep into the bay mud, eliminating the need to remove them piece by piece.
Blasting would be much faster than mechanical removal, shortening the time when fish and wildlife are exposed to disruption, Maroney said.
"You get in and out faster," he said.
A test blast will be done before Caltrans decides if explosives will be used on the foundations.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.
$6.4B Cost of new Bay Bridge span
$300M Cost to demolish old span
$12.7M Cost to put demolition on track