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Bay Bridge Keeps Right On Corroding

Wednesday June 10th, 2015   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 2:35pm PDT   •  

CalTrans_200As we have repeatedly noted, the stylish new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was 10 years in the making, a whopping $5 billion over budget, and yet riddled with safety issues. We have done our best to keep up with the problems, but they keep on coming.

As Jaxon Van Derbeken notes in the San Francisco Chronicle, about one-fourth of the steel rods that anchor the bridge’s town are in sleeves “flooded with corrosive salty water,” one of them up to five feet, and this was a critical threat” that compromises the very integrity of the new span. The 120 sleeves that encase the rods are designed to prevent damage from a major earthquake, which the Bay Area has had before and will doubtless experience again. As Van Derbeken observes, “salt is known to accelerate corrosion, which attacks metal over time and has been linked to numerous disasters,” such as the ruptured oil pipeline in Santa Barbara.

CalTrans boss Malcolm Dougherty told reporters the bridge’s foundation could never be fully watertight. But the bridge’s foundation structure has “sensitivity to water getting to some components,” therefore a solution was needed. This is the same Caltrans boss who in a 2014 Sacramento hearing said “the bridge is safe” so many times that then state senator Mark DeSaulnier asked him to stop. In the two hearings he chaired, DeSaulnier heard now Caltrans bosses, pushing to complete the project, compromised public safety by ignoring problems with welds, bolts, and rods. And they gagged and banished engineers, scientists and experts who had a problem with it. One whistleblower called for a criminal investigation, but that never took place. In effect, it was the bridge to no accountability, and that should come as no surprise.

During the hearings DeSaulnier let slip that his main problem with the safety issues was that they made people adverse to taxes, which in his view were needed for new infrastructure projects. DeSaulnier is now a member of Congress and he is sure to fit right in with the tax-and-spend squad.

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June 2015