Image: San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Russel A. Daniels  /  AP
A replacement section slides into place connecting the new detour route during the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge seismic retrofit in San Francisco, on Saturday. Crews are racing to repair a crack in a steel link.
updated 9/6/2009 9:50:51 PM ET 2009-09-07T01:50:51

A 73-year-old bridge that carries commuters between San Francisco and the heavily populated cities to its east could remain closed for a fifth day as crews race to repair a crack in a steel link that holds up part of the span, a state transportation official said.

A team of workers received the blueprint and materials they needed to repair the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which carries about 260,000 vehicles a day. But fixing the problem by Tuesday, when the workweek begins and the bridge had been set to reopen, poses "quite a challenge," California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said Sunday.

"People should be braced for another day of it being closed," Ney said.

Motorists can use other routes while the bridge is closed, but officials fear that its closure will create traffic jams elsewhere as people return to work after Monday's Labor Day holiday.

The bridge was shut down Thursday night so a section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double-deck section as part of a long-planned seismic upgrade. California transportation workers used the closure as an opportunity to inspect the bridge from top to bottom, and they discovered the crack Saturday.

The damaged link — part of a network of eight similar pieces — is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick and was cracked halfway through.

The last full inspection of the bridge was in 2007, and the crack likely appeared since then, Ney said. He said he did not believe it was related to the construction project.

Friday was the first time the bridge was closed on a workday since part of it collapsed in a devastating 1989 earthquake. It had been scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Crews race to repair S.F. Bay Bridge

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