Catching up and cleaning up before I start on the research for today’s main post.
There isn’t a lot going on publicly with the Bay Bridge at the moment. There’s no official word yet on whether Caltrans will be proceeding with the proposal to install shims to allow the bridge to open before the saddle is completed. Presumably Director Steve Heminger is still sulking in his tent after being cut out of the loop on the shim proposal.
The Bay Bridge Bolt Botch affects the eastern span of the bridge; the western portion didn’t need to be replaced after the Loma Prieta earthquake. It has received a set of seismic updates. Now we find out, courtesy of Matier and Ross, that there’s a problem with those updates. 37 of the 96 seismic dampers (essentially, shock absorbers) are leaking lubricant. Caltrans is refilling them, but considers that to be a temporary fix and plans to replace all 96 dampers beginning in 2015. Why wait that long? Because they’re not sure the specs are correct. Currently Caltrans believes that the specs are inadequate for the amount of vibration the dampers receive from wind, traffic, and temperature changes. They’re using the next year plus to beef up the specs.
Meanwhile, over in BART-land accusations and recriminations continue to fly between BART officials and the unions. The unions continue to claim that BART’s chief negotiator has a history of labor law violations and provoking strikes. BART, of course, denies that. Said chief negotiator is currently on vacation; BART says the vacation was incorporated into their planning, and that they can continue to negotiate without him. BART, for its part, is trying to line up retired staff to run the trains in the event of a renewed strike. That’s necessary because under their current agreement they can’t start training new drivers until a strike actually occurs–and the training includes a required 15 week safety course. Yes, I said “week”.
Details of the negotiations are being kept secret, but nobody seems to think an agreement is close.
Away from the negotiating table, BART is showing off a mockup of the new rail cars it expects to begin buying. Union members are countering with letters to the newspaper decrying BART’s lack of engagement on safety issues.
Finally, a correction: I predicted that the unions would strike again July 31 and an agreement would be reached over the following weekend. The extension of the old agreement actually expires August 4, not July 31 as I had thought. So my updated prediction is that the unions will go back on strike on Sunday the 4th; a deal will be reached late on Wednesday the 7th–too late for the morning commute on Thursday.