SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — A California Senate report released Wednesday on the construction of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge raises questions about the quality of workmanship used to build the $6.3 billion span.
The report by the state Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee contains testimony from engineers that question the durability of welds on bridge pieces produced in China and the integrity of large bolts used to hold earthquake-safety equipment in place.
Still, both engineers say that despite the defects, they don’t believe the bridge to be unsafe, but that parts of it will need expensive retrofitting sooner than they should.
The report’s investigators found that California Department of Transportation managers dismissed concerns from quality-assurance experts that the Chinese firm Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co. Ltd, or ZPMC, hired to do key bridge welds, lacked the experience to meet standards.
James Merrill, an engineer who oversaw weld inspections in China, told investigators that his staff found hundreds of weld cracks. He told Caltrans officials they were taking a “great risk” in allowing ZPMC to do the work, according to the report.
At the time, the contract with ZPMC called for no cracks at all, so Merrill’s firm MacTec Engineering rejected the pieces, leading to severe delays.
Merrill said Caltrans was concerned about the delays, and that he was told he was being “too rigorous” in his inspections.