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San Francisco-area bridge to open next month after quake fix

A lighted art display is shown on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A lighted art display is shown on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A new span of the San Francisco-area's busiest bay bridge will open as planned in September, after a temporary fix was found to repair a system designed to withstand earthquakes, officials said on Thursday.

Structural problems with the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which carries 270,000 vehicles daily from San Francisco to the earthquake-prone area's eastern region, were found in March.

A bridge oversight committee voted unanimously on Thursday to allow a temporary structural fix to keep the original September 3 unveiling date of the span.

"This is an intra-measure that will not only meet, but exceed, the threshold for seismic safety while repairs are made," Bay Area Toll Authority spokesman John Goodwin said.

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake brought down a part of the bridge, killing one person. The new section, which connects Yerba Buena Island to Oakland, has been under construction since 2002.

A survey in March discovered 32 of more than 2,300 steel rods used to help the 2.2-mile (3.5-km) eastern span of the bridge withstand earthquakes, were broken. The rods are part of a system designed to limit the horizontal movement of the bridge's decks in the case of an earthquake.

Following the discovery, officials ordered a retrofitting, estimated to cost between $5 million and $10 million, to replace the rods.

The bridge oversight committee said last month it would delay the opening of the bridge until December 10 to give construction crews more time to resolve the rods issue.

Thursday's vote allowed for placeholder steel plate stabilizers to be used while the rods are permanently replaced, Goodwin said.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Lisa Shumaker)

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