Ever since it was still under construction, Caltrans, the state agency responsible for the bridge’s planning, construction, and maintenance, has been struggling with water leaks in the hollow support structure of the Bay Bridge in Oakland, California that put the steel support cables at risk of corrosion. After spending $1.4 million on an ineffectual attempt to plug those leaks, a simple, cost-effective and practical solution in the form of a sealant has been implemented.
The hundreds of holes drilled into the structure to allow the guardrails to be installed were initially believed to be the source of the problem, but despite plugging these, water continued to leak into the structure. It later became apparent that the water was leaking in through gaps that were present on the roadway’s side of the guardrails. An industrial sealant was applied to seal the join between road and guardrail, and according to engineers, the hollow steel structure is now weatherproof despite recent heavy rains.
The sealant will have to be applied every seven years, but this solution is nevertheless much more cost-effective than re-engineering the guardrails, an eventuality that had been considered necessary should all else fail.