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Bay Bridge closure causes nightmare commute as engineers try to determine why rod snapped [Updated]

October 28, 2009 |  8:37 am

Baybridge [Updated, 9:20 a.m.: Repairs are underway at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after a steel rod snapped Tuesday evening, hitting three vehicles and causing the bridge to be shut down indefinitely, officials said.

Caltrans this morning would not give a time estimate for when the Bay Bridge -- a key route between San Francisco and Oakland used by nearly 280,000 commuters daily -- will reopen.

A spokesman for the agency told reporters this morning that it could take days to make the repairs.

The closure left commuters scrambling for alternative routes, whether that meant taking other bridges or taking mass transit. BART subway lines were jammed this morning, and the agency said it was bringing in more trains.

Motorists were asked to use the Golden Gate Bridge, the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge.]

The cable broke on the westbound upper deck of the Bay Bridge during the Tuesday evening commute, hitting the vehicles and snarling rush-hour traffic.High winds may have been a factor.

"If you look at the totality of the circumstances -- you've got the 5:30 commute, you have a 5,000-pound piece of steel falling out of the sky. We are so fortunate that no one was injured or killed," California Highway Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross told KTVU-TV.

According to Caltrans, the incident occurred on a part of the bridge that received emergency repairs during the Labor Day weekend. That work was designed to repair a crack on the bridge.

-- Shelby Grad and Baxter Holmes

Photo: Traffic backs up on the Bay Bridge approach Tuesday evening after a bridgework failure. Authorities closed down both directions after a cable snapped on the upper deck of the span. Credit: Noah Berger / San Francisco Chronicle