Commuters have a simple message to builders of the new east span of the Bay Bridge: Get it right and make it safe even if the project isn't opened on Labor Day weekend as planned.

"The whole purpose of this new bridge is to improve safety with a seismically stronger span. Safety isn't just the top priority. It's the only priority," said Michael Allen, a San Leandro resident. "If you delay the opening for fixes to make sure it's safe, I don't have a problem. "

Other commuters shared his view Wednesday as the Bay Area Toll Authority reported the opening date the $6.4 billion new span remains up in the air as experts plan a fix to fortify cracked bolts in the new east span.

The toll authority and Caltrans had targeted Labor Day weekend because it provided a window of opportunity with light traffic volumes to close the old bridge for several days and finish work to open the new east span.

"If you need a holiday period to open the new span," Allen said, "then you can look at a Thanksgiving opening or another holiday."

Ron Dodson of Benicia said he is glad that bridge management agencies are publicly airing the safety concerns and studies about the eastern span.

"The reassuring part of the bolt problem is they stopped the job and brought it to everyone's attention to resolve the issue," Dodson said in an email. "I would have been very concerned with the quality control process if the bolt breakage would have been covered up."


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Oakland resident Kathy Smith said she keenly appreciates the importance of bridge safety because she had just driven over a section of Bay Bridge on Oct. 17, 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake caused the 50-foot-section to collapse.

"It was a very surreal experience; one I do not wish to repeat," Smith said in an email Wednesday. "I can see no good reason to not investigate the possible fixes and determine the root cause of the bolt failure."

She said if an opening postponement is needed, Caltrans should not see it as a "failure." Stephen Lau, a San Francisco resident who commutes daily over the Bay Bridge, said he believes bridge experts will find a way to fix or fortify the bolts.

"I'm more worried," Laud said in an email, "about the existing span that has been proven to fail from earthquakes that are centered 75 miles away."

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.