It was a bit of a weird coincidence.
The San Francisco Bay Bridge was closed for scheduled repairs last Thursday, and was scheduled to reopen today. The repairs were being made to help the bridge better withstand an earthquake, the New York Times said in a story about the repairs.
During the repairs, workers unexpectedly found that a large crack in a span, which required an emergency repair. As a result the opening was going to be delayed for a day, and a day of commuting nightmares was expected.
However, repairs were able to be completed more quickly than anticipated, and the bridge opened at 0700 PDT today, just two hours late.
Nothing particularly unusual about any of this except that last week, as the bridge was being shutdown, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) web site helpfully displayed a count-down clock with the number of hours left to complete the weekend's repair project. According to this post at the San Francisco Chronicles' The Tech Chronicles, the clock showed the repair was going to take 267 days and then some.
The glitch was corrected a very short-time later.
But I began to wonder when I watched Prof. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl at the UCal Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and an expert on bridges being quoted in a nationally televised ABCNews program last night that the Bay Bridge should not be reopened, claiming that the bridge is not safe because of the newly found crack .
The coincidence between the web site glitch, the discovery of the new crack, and Prof. Astaneh-Asl's recommendation doesn't mean anything, of course, but sometimes it does make you wonder ...
BTW, no word from Caltrans on what it thinks of Prof. Astaneh-Asl's recommendation.
Update: Originally I wrote that Pro. Astaneh-Asl had said the bridge should not be reopened at all, which was incorrect, as Pro. Astaneh-Asl noted in a comment. I apologize for the error, which was not intentional.
Since many who read the blog don't get to see the comments, and in fairness to Pro. Astaneh-Asl, I am reposting his comment in full here:
"My comment on the ABC World news was not that the bridge the bridge should not be opened at all. Having studied the Bay Bridge for the last 20 years I made the comment that this bridge should not be opened in such a haste just after repairing this one fractured eye-bar. The fracture is clearly due to fatigue and until you conduct an in depth inspection of other 63 similar eye-bars, to ensure that they are no fatigue cracks in them, you should not open the bridge to traffic. For more information please listen to the discussion I had today on the KQED radio at https://www.kqed.org/radio/programs/radionews/ By the way, all this discussion and the contributions made to the subject, even if broadcast sometimes in bits and pieces, including your above contribution, are very valuable since this is a very serious public safety issue. Best regards. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D., P.E., Professor, UC Berkeley ."
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.