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As we have noted, the new eastern span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge came in $5 billion over budget, a full ten years late, and with doubts about its safety. One UC Berkeley structural engineering professor declines to use the new span. In Sacramento hearings on the safety theme, insiders called for a “criminal investigation” over defective welds on the Chinese fabrication, and the way workers troubled by the defects had been reassigned. No criminal investigation took place, and Caltrans bosses tapped the California Highway Patrol, of all people, to conduct an investigation. To the surprise of nobody, the CHP found nothing wrong. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier still said he would recommend that California Attorney General Kamala Harris launch a criminal investigation. She has not done so, and shows no inclination to challenge any of California’s bloated and corrupt bureaucracies. Some commuters and taxpayers think this is as bad as it gets, but they are wrong.
Bay Area commuters paid $50 million for a huge crane, the massive Left Coast Lifter, used in the bridge’s construction. But as Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area bosses are giving the crane to the builder, American Bridge/Fluor. They are not only happy for the gift, but “now, it turns out, those same builders are cashing in on it — putting it to work constructing a new taxpayer-funded bridge in New York.” New York governor Andrew Cuomo loves the deal, which he says will save his state more than $1 billion.
It turns out that the company’s bid for the Bay Bridge work included a provision allowing it to keep the crane. Was that a bad deal for Bay Area tollpayers? Matier and Ross asked Sen. DeSaulnier, who needed to look at the contract but said “they should get some value out of it.” Nice thought, senator, but they won’t. The crane giveaway, like the rest of the Bridge project, is a bad deal for taxpayers. When it comes to big government and bureaucracy, things are always worse than they seem.