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As we have noted many times, the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge came in 10 years late and a whopping $5 billion over budget, but all that time and money could not guarantee safety for the public. In 2007, fissures some 10 feet long cut through a steel bar 20 inches thick. Builders opted to inject industrial strength glue and, as Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, “now the repair has failed, and water is flowing into the foundation and filling the sleeves that hold the 25-foot-long rods anchoring the tower.” At least one rod is broken and the other is rusting. Bob Bea, emeritus professor of civil engineering at UC Berkeley, told the reporter, “This is still a mess. It is not acceptable. We have got ample evidence of potentially important challenges to the strength of this system.”
“Someone should be held accountable,” Bay Area congressman Mark DeSaulnier told Carla Marinucci of Politico after recent revelations. “My constituents paid for that bridge, and they go over it. They’re at risk, If that bridge falls apart, it will have consequences, so why wouldn’t you want to find out what the hell happened, and learn from it? And hold people accountable if they did anything wrong?” Sounds good but DeSaulnier already had a chance to do just that.
As a California state Senator he held hearings on the bridge in January of 2014. He heard witnesses testify that Caltrans, the massive state transportation agency, compromised public safety by ignoring problems with welds, bolts and rods. Caltrans also outsourced work to China, where workers produced cracked welds. Whistleblowers called for a criminal investigation but DeSaulnier did not follow through on that until months later, and the state Attorney General has done nothing. The lingering safety issues, DeSaulnier said in the hearings, had eroded public confidence and made Californians “adverse to taxes.” These taxes, he said, were needed for other “infrastructure” projects that DeSaulnier claimed would promote economic growth.
Congressman DeSaulnier told Politico he plans to propose federal legislation to fend off cost overruns and contractor short-cuts such as those on the Bay Bridge. Good luck with that. State or federal oversight, it’s still the bridge to no accountability, $5 billion over budget and unsafe to boot.