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As we have noted several times, the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was $5 billion over budget and, count ‘em, ten years late. That’s a full decade but after all that time and money, safety issues linger with faulty welds and such, which California governor Jerry Brown dismissed with his famous “shit happens” quip. UC Berkeley structural engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asi, who knows a bit more about bridges than Brown, believes the structure is unsafe and declines to use it. Now, as investigative journalist Charles Piller reports in the Sacramento Bee, the man in charge of the project is conveniently retiring.
Tony Anziano managed the bridge construction process for Caltrans, but he is an attorney, not an engineer. Witnesses in hearings last year charged that Anziano ordered his underlings not to document serious flaws in welds. Anziano denied the charges. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said he didn’t believe him, but the criminal investigation one Caltrans whistleblower called for never took place. DeSaulnier, now a congressman, tells Piller, “it’s frustrating that there’s never been anyone in the management of the bridge who has been held accountable.” DeSaulnier is right about that, but toll payers and taxpayers might find fault with his oversight as head of Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
He heard detailed, credible testimony from a number of experts and whistleblowers but never held Caltrans bosses to account. On the other hand, DeSaulnier revealed the real reason for his concerns. The billions in cost overruns, the 10-year delay, and lingering safety issues, he said, had eroded public confidence and made Californians “adverse to taxes.” These taxes were needed for other “infrastructure” projects that DeSaulnier said would promote economic growth. He gave no examples, but the prime candidate is surely the state’s $68 billion high-speed rail project, another sure-fire boondoggle.