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California's Bay Bridge opening remains in doubt

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The final decision about whether the new, $6.3 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge can open on Labor Day as scheduled is still a month off as crews continue work to fix 32 broken seismic safety bolts, officials said Wednesday.

"I don't think there's any way to sugarcoat this, but we need more time," Steven Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said in a meeting with Bay Area officials.

Heminger said July 10 is the "drop-dead date" for knowing whether the span will open on time.

The failure of 32 bolts that attach the bridge deck to earthquake shock absorbers called "shear keys" has put the bridge's opening date in jeopardy.

The new bridge is replacing a span damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Because the broken bolts are under a concrete cap, they cannot be removed. So, engineers scrambled to devise a fix that would do the job of the bolts in a different way.

Heminger said work had begun on putting in steel saddles that would hold the shear keys in place using steel cables.

But officials overseeing the bridge construction said they need another month to know whether finishing the work on the saddles will be possible by Labor Day.

"It will be facts about the bolts and safety that will drive the decision (to open)," Heminger said.

Officials also said the bridge had had another bolt problem involving the bicycle path, but it has been fixed.