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State Senate Holds Hearing Over Bay Bridge Construction Flaws

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) — The director of Caltrans, along with several engineers testified on Friday in the latest hearings over construction issues and cost overruns of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

At an informational hearing in Sacramento, the engineers testified Friday that more safety testing should have been done before the new Eastern Span opened.

The integrity of metal and concrete components is under scrutiny following a State Senate committee report questioning the workmanship of the span.

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said he was pleased the hearing could be held without having to issue subpoenas.

DeSaulnier also chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and is a former member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission who voted on the final design of the bridge.

He said culture at Caltrans has to be transformed in light of preliminary findings of an investigative report on the construction of the new span released earlier this week.

One of the findings in the report is that top quality-control managers who discovered thousands of cracks and welds by a Chinese contractor were replaced by Caltrans.

Engineer James Merrill was one of those workers reassigned to other work after he disclosed the findings of the shoddy workmanship.

Caltrans engineer Douglas Coe was forced off of his job after he discovered cracked welds. He was overseeing work in China in 2009.

One Caltrans engineer and geologist, Mike Morgan said he tried for two-and-a-half years to have construction concerns investigated. At the hearing, he testified that nothing really happened as a result of those concerns. Morgan would later leave Caltrans.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty responded to some serious allegations by engineers in the second half of the hours-long hearing.

Dougherty testified and said the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge is safe. He disputed the engineers’ earlier testimony that criticized Caltrans’ handling of defective rods, welds and concrete foundation.

DeSaulnier asked Dougherty, “From your professional opinion, listening to the testimony and reading the report, would you say mistakes were made?

Dougherty replied, “I need a more specific question.”

DeSaulnier responded, “That’s a very specific question, Mr. Dougherty.”

The Caltrans chief finally conceded that mistakes in fact had been made in the building of the bridge section.

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