Caltrans is asking motorists to keep their eyes on the road as workers begin installing the first strand of the main cable on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
Caltrans acting director Malcolm Dougherty said at a media briefing near the bridge Monday morning that crews are beginning "the most significant and challenging" part of constructing the bridge's self-anchored suspension span, a 2,047-foot section of bridge east of Yerba Buena Island.
The self-anchored suspension span, which Caltrans officials said will be the longest span of its kind in the world, is the signature element of the new eastern portion of the bridge.
Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said the cable will follow the path of the bright orange cable catwalks attached to the new tower that have been visible to motorists for the past several months.
The single cable will be anchored around the eastern end of the roadway and will pass through the tower, looping around the roadway on the west side before passing back through the tower again -- a configuration Caltrans likened to a "giant sling."
The cable, which will be 2.6 feet wide, will have 137 strands, each comprised of 127 steel wires, Ney said.
Ney said it will likely take two or three days to install the first strand, and that the work is expected to proceed quickly after that and take a total of several months.
Dougherty said the cable will weigh 5,291 tons, or nearly 10.6 million pounds.
Ney said motorists shouldn't look at the work while they cross the Bay Bridge, but can view an animation of the work at baybridgeinfo.org or visit an interpretive display at Treasure Island.
Dougherty said the new eastern span, a $6.3 million project to make the bridge more seismically safe, is still scheduled to open to motorists in 2013.
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