Just after the San Francisco 49ers lost the Super Bowl in February, Gov. Jerry Brown took part in a live television special, sitting high above San Francisco Bay.
The event, produced by the Bay Area's CBS TV station, was billed as an official countdown to the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is scheduled to be operational by Labor Day. Brown pressed an oversized button which triggered a countdown clock to the bridge’s planned Sept. 3 opening, an event that the governor said would be marked by a celebration that involved “hundreds of thousands of people.”
But now those party plans may be put on hold.
Since that night, serious questions about the safety of the new span have surfaced, and with Labor Day just two months away, a committee charged with overseeing its construction is set to weigh in on whether the bridge will be ready as scheduled.
A three-member panel consisting of the head of the Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority will make its formal recommendation on when to open the bridge in a special meeting set for July 10 in Oakland.
Along with input from Brown, their decision will ultimately determine when the bridge will officially open for business.
“Other than those four men, nobody else’s opinion means anything,” said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “We expect that recommendation to be made on Wednesday.”
State officials say they have been told a delay in the opening date is possible, and even likely.
In advance of next week’s meeting, the three-member panel has scheduled a briefing in Sacramento with lawmakers who represent the Bay Area. Among them is Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the Senate Transportation committee.
“What I’m hoping for is a clear process to assure the bridge is safe and that we can open it as soon as it’s possible to do so safely,” he said.
But for weeks, bridge officials have hinted that the Labor Day opening may have to be delayed.
Ultimately, the decision about whether and when to open the new bridge will be made by Brown. Speaking to reporters last month, he said he would delay the opening if safety concerns were not met.
“That thing,” he told reporters, “is not going to open unless it's ready."
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