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The following statement is a totally subjective opinion based on my reading of multiple articles about the disastrous history of the planning and building of the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge: I'm totally convinced that if we had a major, massive earthquake today (or tomorrow, next week, or next month) that the old rickety Bay Bridge, built in the early 1930's would fare better.

Actually, from what I've read so far, I would not be surprised if the new bridge actually fails.

Also, as a reader, I've noticed that there appears to be some sort of cover up as to the exact details about how the construction of this new bridge became such a massive failure.

The narrative I see is this... By the end of 2002 Caltrans was in financial straits, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.  

"It ran out of money for highway projects in December [of 2002] because of state budget problems. Projects involving earthquake safety - such as the eastern span - were still being funded. But there were no guarantees that would last, and everyone was eager to start bidding on the first phase of the suspension span, the steel-and-concrete foundation of the signature tower. "
The emphasis is mine

This is very important because, once again, the under-funding of necessary government/public functions sets the stage for a chain of events that may prove to be tragic.

So in a hurry, and under pressure to get the project going, the first potential mistake they may have done was selecting an unconventional designed now known as "the self-anchored suspension span."  Even the head of the company hired to build the new bridge, Tung-Yen Lin, who favored a "more conventional approach [based] on slender cables stretching out from a central tower," didn't have too many nice things to say about the design:

"This will be building a monument to stupidity," Lin said when a design panel overrode his objections and selected the self-anchored suspension span in 1998.
The emphasis is mine

Early in the design vetting process, T.Y. Lin International's bridge engineers identified a potential problem with the the type of bolts they were going to be using:

The panel's chairman, bridge engineer Lian Duan, zeroed in on one aspect of the design in particular - the bolts that were to bind steel parts together inside concrete beams, which would sit atop the bridge's columns and support the road decks.

The bolts - known under the industrial classification of A490 - were to be made of high-strength steel and galvanized.

The problem was that galvanizing bolts carried a danger: Hydrogen, in rainwater, saltwater mist or fog, could be absorbed through gaps in the layer of zinc and, by way of an electro-chemical reaction, make the hardened steel brittle.

Here's when it gets interesting... Even thought the dangers of using those types of bolts had already been pointed out, Caltrans decided to rush through the project, and approve their use after receiving assurances by the supplier, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Caltrans decided to install high-risk steel rods on the Bay Bridge's new eastern span after a supplier pointed out that the agency had already approved them for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, according to documents the agency released Tuesday.

However, the galvanized, high-strength rods that Caltrans approved in 2001 for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge's seismic retrofit were tightened to far lower tension levels [7 times less tension levels] than the 2,300-plus rods installed on the eastern span. Experts say tension is a key factor in causing high-strength steel to snap - something that has already happened with 32 rods on the new Bay Bridge.


Caltrans e-mails and other documents released Tuesday show that a major supplier of rods for both bridge projects, Dyson Corp. of Ohio, was influential in persuading the agency to adopt the high-risk bolts on the eastern span - even though the state had barred the bolts from other bridge projects because of their vulnerability to cracking if invaded by hydrogen. In general, the harder the steel and the higher the stress, the greater the chance that hydrogen can attack it.

The emphasis is mine

And here's one more strange thing in this saga... In 2011, a Caltrans safety worker was fired for suspicion of having fabricated bridge inspection results:

In 2006 and 2007, Wiles tested the structural integrity of 13 buried concrete and steel pilings that hold up the tower for the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2013.

In six of the cases, the Bee reported, Wiles’ test results showed no significant problems, even though his colleagues found numerous sections of questionable concrete density that needed more scrutiny or repair. Caltrans said no safety tests were fabricated on the Bay Bridge.

There is a lot more... Former Caltrans corrosion engineer Rob Reis had warned officials the the rods should have been tested before installation.  But incredibly, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, "e-mails that Caltrans released [] in response to requests by the media and state Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, show little or no evidence that agency officials discussed the rods' vulnerability to corroding in the elements before deciding to install them."

And yet, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty told the state Senate "that the agency had installed the high-risk rods with its 'eyes wide open.'"

Here's what I know... I know that even though I wasn't in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was close enough to feel the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  I know that even thought the good-old Bay Bridge suffered some damage, it remained standing.  I know that I've crossed it hundreds of time throughout the almost 20 years I've been living in the San Francisco Bay Area.  And I know it took only three years to build (1933 to 1936).

Regarding this new bridge, the little I know is extremely disturbing.  Caltrans picked an unconventional designed characterized as a "monument to stupidity" by Tung-Yen Lin, founder of T.Y. Lin International, the bridge designer.

I know that many safety warnings related to its construction went unheeded by top Caltrans management.  And I know that there has been multiple irregularities throughout the entire process.

And also, I know that if the agency and builder rush to open the bridge by its deadline of September 3rd, tens of millions of dollars in bonuses will be paid:
Assuming the Bay Bridge's troubled new eastern span opens as planned Sept. 3 - broken bolts and all - its lead builder will be in line for a $20 million bonus.

That's on top of a $16 million bonus that the joint venture American Bridge/Fluor received last year for meeting construction deadlines and staying within budget during the earlier stages of construction.


There's a flip side to the freshly scheduled Sept. 3 ribbon cutting: It will save American Bridge/Fluor, and other contractors involved in the broken-bolts fiasco, millions in potential penalties that could have been imposed had the opening been delayed.

The emphasis is mine

So "broken bolts and all" we will rush to opening a potentially unsafe bridge.  God forbid there is any interference with the payouts of bonuses.

A sign of the times...  Wall Street criminal racketeering cartels steal trillions, make hundreds of billions in bonuses, crash the economy, nobody goes to jail, and the people are left holding the bag.

Likewise, if there are major problems with this bridge, who's going to jail?  Are the bonuses going to be returned?  Of course not.  The people will be holding the bag, again.

The ruling elite has mastered the art of extraction; they've privatized profits, and socialized risk and losses.  It's a nice arrangement for them.

As many former "Banana Republics" work on freeing themselves from CIA-sponsored destabilization campaigns, the corporatist cartels are now turning inward.  We are now the newest Banana Republic, and we have a $6.4 billion boondoggle to prove it.

I'm going to continue to follow the developments regarding this fiasco.  Something tells me there is another shoe to drop.  


P.S. I welcome spirited debate about this topic, and I'm especially interested in hearing from people who do not agree with my position.  However, I will not engage in discussion with people who write first-person personal insults, or engage in disruptive behavior.  I ask other serious people to do the same.  To learn more about this subject, please visit the following links: The 15 Rules of Web Disruption / Thirteen Rules for Truth Suppression / Disinformation: How It Works.

Market For The People |Ray Pensador | Email List | Twitter | Facebook

Originally posted to Ray Pensador on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (122+ / 0-)
  •  Instead of being the Big Dig it's a (12+ / 0-)

    Big Belly Flop? Gosh, I really hope no one dies if this thing collapses into the bay. The key to it standing will be to find a way to keep weight off the thing during rush hour and that's not likely to happen.

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never has and never will be. Thomas Jefferson

    by JDWolverton on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:48:43 AM PDT

    •  $6.4 billions wasted. They should not open this (14+ / 0-)

      bridge.  My take is that it will end up being one of the major failures in constructions history, and that includes the decision making, and to top it all off, the bonuses at the end of the sorry chain of events.

      •  Minor nitpick--T.Y. Lin designed bridge, they (41+ / 0-)

        didn't build it.  Since representing design professionals (including a few bridge design cases) is the core of my practice, I'm sensitive to the distinction between A/E firms and contractors.

        I first read about this situation in a NYT article while (ironically enough) flying to SF in June.  You're 100% correct about our basic lack of commitment to infrastructure and in your "banana republic" comments.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:36:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for pointing that out. It is an (9+ / 0-)

          important aspect of the story (designers vs. builder).

          •  Well, and hanging peripherally around structural (8+ / 0-)

            engineers, I know T.Y. Lin has a good strong international reputation for structural design generally, and bridges specifically.  If the change in specified bolt types do not let the design perform as it should, it...may not.

            See the hotel skybridge collapse case in Kansas City with contractor substituting a structural support and assembly that the designers signed off on, and the resulting catastrophe:


            I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

            by tom 47 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:15:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •   The engineers submitted a bad design in KC (23+ / 0-)

              I am fairly expert in structural matters, being a design professional (architect).  At KC they designed a three story long hanger-rod, of which there is no such thing available, at least not as a special order.  The fabricators substituted two separate rods.  Instead of splicing the two rods into one co-linear rod, they changed the design detail to two separate rods in two different lines, mere inches apart.  This connection to the beam supporting the skywalk, which was a simple steel tube, was the fatal error.  One tube was pulling the tube up as it hung from the roof and supported the bridge the beam was actually intended to support- the other was pulling the tube down as the load of the bridge below was being transferred through the portion of the tube between rods.  In other words, the tube was being ripped apart by these two opposing up and down forces from the moment it was built.  (Shear is the structural definition- it sheared apart).  KC was a failure of everyone involved, contractor and designers, when the bad design was approved.

              As to the new bay bridge- I agree there is great concern based on what I have read on it, but there are also the ethical duties all of the engineers involved have to ensure safety,  they are bound to them by law.  So any potential for failure must fall within design allowances. My real concern is the bonuses for finishing by certain dates. I have never heard of this- only penalties for finishing late.  It's a really bad idea, and should probably be made illegal.  Things take a certain amount of time to build- rushing is always a bad idea.

              •  Liquidated Damages is pretty common (10+ / 0-)

                on major projects and as an incentive to get a General Contractor to sign on to the contract, the client usually offers bonuses for finishing early. This is popular on big project that have a history of blowing deadlines and blowing budgets. Millenium Park in Chicago and The Big Dig in Boston come to mind.

                That said, this isn't really a sign of a Banana Republic, it is a sign of a race to the bottom when it comes to paying for products and services. Clients don't understand the three legged stool concept anymore and feel that they can get things done cheaply and on time and still buy a quality product. One of the three legs will collapse.

                •  Better, faster, cheaper: Pick two. (4+ / 0-)

                  This is a well known mantra in the Engineering profession.

                  We also say, "In ten years, if it's right, no one will remember that it was late; and in ten years if it's wrong, no one will remember that it was on time."  This latter dictum, however, applies only to resisting managerial pressure to enforce deadlines; it does not address the issue of gold-diggers racing to the bottom.

                  The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

                  by magnetics on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:22:23 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Yes. (7+ / 0-)
                As to the new bay bridge- I agree there is great concern based on what I have read on it, but there are also the ethical duties all of the engineers involved have to ensure safety,  they are bound to them by law.  So any potential for failure must fall within design allowances.
                I am a structural engineer.  I can reassure you that no licensed engineer is going to rush through an approval or put his seal on a drawing without being damned certain of its adequacy.  I'm not saying we never make mistakes, but what is being alleged here isn't a calculation error but systemic corner cutting.  Not going to happen on the engineer's part.

                In addition to the immense liability of a failure, there's also the small matter of keeping your license, which is necessary to your livelihood.  We do not jeopardize that; ever.

                I can't speak to the specifics of the A490 bolts in this case; but I feel confident that if they were approved after potential problems were identified, that those problems were properly examined and evaluated by a licensed engineer, and that their capacities carry an appropriate factor of safety.  Ultimately it comes down to a guy with a calculator and an AISC code book.  We know what we're doing; that's why we get the big bucks.  :-)

                You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

                by rb608 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:30:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I agree that some (11+ / 0-)

                of the responsibility needs to fall on the designer.

                I have quit projects in the design phase when I can see that the client is not respecting my opinion on serious safety issues or legal violations.  I always put my dissent in writing and if it is not listened to I'm out of there.

                A big problem with government projects is that they are almost all design-build, meaning that the A/E team is reduced to a bunch of grunts beholden to the contractor.  Decades ago, the client would hire both the architect and the contractor.  The architect would serve in the client's best interest as their advocate, to ensure that the contractor wasn't cutting corners.

                Contractors have a profit motive to cheat the client, while the architect's only profit motive is to serve the client.  Contractors have worked long and hard, and successfully, to remove the architect from the equation.  With design/build, they have free reign to say no to the architect and tell the client whatever they want.

                The design/build project delivery system has been a disaster not only for the A/E industry, but for the built environment in general.  I'm not 100% sure that the Bay Bridge was a design/build project, but in my experience with CA state and federal projects, they almost always are.

                "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

                by La Gitane on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:34:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Design build still requires an architect (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  La Gitane, BlueMississippi

                  and engineer.

                  •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Ray Pensador, NYFM, la urracca

                    but in design/build they contract with the contractor, not the owner.

                    Therefore they don't report directly to the owner, the contractor does.  The contractor has the last word on what gets presented to the owner.

                    "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

                    by La Gitane on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:52:11 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Design/build is a bad development for A/E's (4+ / 0-)

                      I speak as someone who has defended design professionals since 1986.  The mindset of a GC and the mindset of an A/E are usually very different.  Design/build makes A/E's think more like GC's, which isn't a positive development.

                      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

                      by RFK Lives on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:04:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  TOTALLY agree (6+ / 0-)

                        I find myself having to explain this to clients very often.

                        Contractors have a profit motive that isn't necessarily in the owner's best interest, and owners usually don't have enough experience in the building industry to know better.  The architect is the only knowledgeable advocate that the owner has - our motive is completely different from that of the GC.

                        Sort of a fox in the hen house situation....  thank you so much for speaking on this.  It's rare that this issue gets talked about!  My colleagues are all afraid to diss the GC's for fear of never getting any government contracts.

                        "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

                        by La Gitane on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:24:39 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  To clarify... (12+ / 0-)

                What happened in KC as a result of the design change was that the connection for the hanger at the upper walkway ended up carrying twice the load for which it was designed.  It wasn't a shear failure of the member in the technical sense; the nut supporting the cross member pulled through from the bottom.  

                As an aside, I have to say that collapse spooked me a little as an engineer.  The field modification proposed by the contractor looked so sensible and practical, I'm willing to bet more than one engineer would have missed the structural implication that ultimately resulted in collapse.  I know I'm a lot more cautious because of that.

                You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

                by rb608 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:37:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  KC -- The switch from the traditional design (4+ / 0-)

                  To the "new improved" design that led to the structure's complete failure was the subject of a Scientific American article (from some time back.)

                  Why no one caught it, while still in design mode, I don't know. I guess the person that proposed the change possessed enough seniority or "expertise" that they were not questioned nor was the design examined - until after the hundreds of people died.

                  Offer your heart some Joy every day of your life, and spread it along to others.

                  by Truedelphi on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:41:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  yes, corrections to my (and the wiki account) (4+ / 0-)

                  I made a typo above, should be: One rod was pulling the tube up...
                  and a factual error: the beams were not tubes but a pair of channels placed "toe to toe" to form a 'box'.  This is a tube shape and behaves similarly, although unlike a tube channels have flanges that actually taper and are smallest at their ends (the 'toe')- this is the point where they were welded together at KC to form the 'box'.  

                  I think the wiki account makes an error in the details of the explanation for (mode of) the failure.  The welded pair of channels did have a resultant 'seam' on top and bottom, but the weld is not a weak point- welds are actually very strong.  It is normally a weak point because the channel's flanges are thinnest there.  If you look at the photo provided you see the webs of the channels were bent and deforming with the flanges pointed upward during failure.
                  Now, it is also true that the failed channel-beams were overloaded due to their also carrying the load of the bridge below, in addition to the single bridge they were intended to.  This is true, but the channels actually performed without failing for over a year.  And I believe this indicated (and it was also calculated) that the channels would not have failed were they placed back to back instead of toe to toe- despite their having been doubly loaded.  So my understanding of the mode of failure was the general principle of shearing action on the flanges of the box shape.  The channel shapes "hinged" where the flange transitions to the web, and the web being thinner, it began bending up.  The nuts/washers only cracked because their bearing surface suddenly changed from one flat plane to two sloped planes which were also spreading apart.  The wiki photo shows not the 2nd floor support rod but the 4th floor to roof rod.  And as the wiki diagram shows the underside of the 4th floor beam where the rod went up to the roof was the point of double load.  If the seam/nut connection failed, the beams would have maintained their box shape while either the nut/washers punched through (sheared) the welded seam.  But they didn't.  The beams deformed and then the nuts failed.

                  My understanding of KC is based on the ENR articles on it, and knowledge I acquired through one of the attorneys I know who actually worked on the litigation and settlements.

              •  wasn't that the one where the nuts failed? (5+ / 0-)

                Instead of a continuous rod with nuts at each level holding up a single level, they had separate rods which essentially put all of the levels load on the top nut? That was a real bozo error, as I recall. Not that it has anything to do with this situation. Hydrogen embrittlement is a fairly well-understood and age-old problem, I would be very surprised if the engineers tried to somehow sweep this under the rug. That would be criminal.

                •  See the link above. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ray Pensador, akeitz, BlueMississippi

                  I guess I was trying to point out the initial onus on the designer (engineer), the attempt to reduce costs by the constructor, and the failure of either/both to see the load and component implications.

                  It looks like there is a similar situation for the Bay Bridge, though different in the particulars of the design and the demand being placed in the bolts.

                  IANAE.  Thanks for those of you knowledgeable professionals who elaborated and added to the depth of the discussion. I knew my simplification would suss out you experts.  ;-)

                  I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

                  by tom 47 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:48:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Engineers, as opposed to lawyers, are obligated (5+ / 0-)

                by oath to serve the interest of the public over the interests of their client.  Yes, the engineers should speak up and, if necessary, block progress to prevent a bad design from being constructed until the design is fixed.

                Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

                by bigtimecynic on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:02:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  And why hasn't the diary been corrected? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Ugh.  The whole thing bugs me.  Contrary to how the diarist presents it, there is nothing at all inherently unsafe with self-anchored suspension bridges.  They've been around since the early 1800s.  Of course engineers will have differences of opinions about designs in different situations, but as for the basic bridge design, there's nothing at all wrong with self-anchored suspension bridges.

            As for the bolts, since I'm not an expert on such things, I wouldn't feel comfortable offering my opinion on the topic.  But I can tell you that the use of high strength galvanized steel in bridges in general is also nothing even remotely new.  And the fact that it's been called out in the press as an issue means that the concept that they're just going to let the bolts get embrittled and not bother to keep track of it is pretty absurd.

            Já þýðir já. Nei þýðir nei. Hvað er svona erfitt við það?

            by Rei on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:15:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Are you an engineer? (28+ / 0-)

        If you have worked on big projects this kind of stuff always happens. People on the outside chirp.

        Because of the public funding with the project, there is a level of transparency that you don't see with private projects (such as constructing a building or such). Design engineer looks like they are providing effective oversight - they see a potential problem and they call it out and fix it. There might be a problem with the bolts you say - well that is now on the radar forever. they will be checking those bolts monthly, weekly or daily I am sure. False inspection reports - well they were caught and now the work can be re-inspected. I mean they caught false inspection reports - do you know how hard that is to do? Very hard. That's good oversight.

        I don't mean to seem like a douche, but I think it is a little irresponsible for you to write that the bridge is potentially unsafe. If the design engineer or a qualified group of experts (from academia perhaps) send up the red flag then okay lets re-evaluate. Not saying that any points you make about the bonuses, etc. aren't valid.

        •  You're exactly right to point out the ridiculous (18+ / 0-)

          claims by this diarist. "End up being one of the major failures in constructions history"? Jayzeus Crackers, that's some new world record in hyperbole.

          What Ray Pensador understands about civil engineering projects would slosh around the inside of a nano nut.

          •  That's my opinion and I stand by it based on (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rbird, Truedelphi, Maudlin

            having read several articles about this issue.

            It seems to me that the whole process has been major fuckup.

            •  Your "opinion" is fact-free paranoia based on (14+ / 2-)

              a complete ignorance about complex, multi-billion dollar infrastructure engineering. Are mistakes made on such things? Yes. Are there bad players who sometimes shirk their duties? Yes. Is the SF Bay Bridge going to drop like a stone into the cold waters of the Bay carrying with it thousands of people because of those simple human facts? No.

              Everything you see is some evidence of a huge, vampire-squid conspiracy and you're ultimately doing harm to actual vampire-squid conspiracies. This diary is Exhibit A for that fact.

              •  Can't argue the facts so go for personal attack. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Maudlin, RFK Lives

                A highly offensive insult questioning my mental acuity meant to attack my character... Classic textbook ad hominen.

                Did I say the bridge was going to drop like a stone?  No.  You are dishonestly mischaracterizing my position and then attacking the straw man you created.


                •  Please define what your mental acuity means (7+ / 0-)

                  by "end up being one of the major failures in constructions history" then, Ray. Either you meant to suggest that the bridge would fail and klll people---which it would have to to be anything near a historic failure"---or your a simple hooligan who writes to stir up shit, or doesn't understand anything about construction.

                  Your call, Ray. I think you owe everyone here an explanation. What exactly did you mean by "end up being one of the major failures in constructions history"? Qualify that. Exactly.

                  •  Not playing the distraction game; sorry. n/t (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    •  So, there it is. You can spout shit and not be (8+ / 0-)

                      held accountable because "distraction."

                      Nice to see it in black and white.

                      •  And some coming to this diary will see you (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Ray Pensador, Maudlin, Dianna

                        spouting personal invective (aka "shit").  In black and white.

                        Well done.

                        The GOP says you have to have an ID to vote, but $ Millionaire donors should remain anonymous?

                        by JVolvo on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:51:00 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  To be fair... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          ...he did not call the diarist 'shit', he called what the diarist was saying 'shit'. Last I checked, that was neither against the rules nor particularly uncommon.

                          And, let's be fair, it is basically a load of bollocks. Can you imagine what would happen to more or less everyone involved with this project if the new Eastern Span were to collapse in an earthquake, now that everyone has been warned about the problems, they are being worked around, and we are being assured of the safety of the workarounds?

                          The lawsuits would be ridiculous, and would include 'gross negligence', which means personal, not just corporate, liability. Not to mention possible criminal charges for 'criminal negligence'.

                          We all agree, the whole situation was mishandled to the nth degree. But implying that the whole thing is going to call over in a high wind ('...end up being one of the major failures in construction history') is insulting to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed by the real 'failures in construction history'. You know. The ones where things actually, uh, failed.

                          •  Your comment contains one absurdity after (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            another... On the surface, and clearly, anybody could see that your characterization of the diary as "implying that the whole thing is going to fall over in a high wind" is insulting to anybody's (who read this diary) intelligence.

                            And yet you felt like posting it.  Classic!

                            Then you go for the faux emotionalism, i.e., "insulting hundreds of thousands of people who have died."

                            Talk about major intellectual fail.  It's actually entertaining.

                            Try harder.

              •  There have been problems with the bridge (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ray Pensador

                and I have to question why a bonus would be awarded to anyone in regards to this. Since when do public works projects get bonuses?

                "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

                by voracious on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:05:44 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  fact-free paranoia (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Yoshimi, 6412093

                encapsulates 99%+ of this diarist's writing.

              •  Actually, There IS a Problem... (5+ / 0-)

                I have heard things from contacts inside various construction connected Bay Area and State agencies that give me considerable pause. For example, many of the bolts may have been processed twice in a way that will cause crystallization and pre-mature metal fatigue, and that the problem goes all the way down to the anchors. The only way it can be completely fixed would involve at least a year's delay. The cost beyond the lost incentives could go into the 100's of millions, if not over a billion dollars. That's a hella lot of motive, don't you agree?

                This isn't a conspiracy theory. The new span is not likely to survive any quake greater than a 6.0, and I have my doubts down to 5.0.

                And I'll come out and say it: Bad decisions (and outright dumb-ass mistakes) concerning this bridge will lead to death and dismemberment WHEN it fails.

                And I do NOT take pleasure in saying that. I have been watching (and, especially when they were driving the piles, hearing) the bridge be constructed from the beginning. It SHOULD be a beautiful new span. Instead, there has been considerable doubt sown (and rightfully so) as to it's safety.

                Remember, we've had CalTrans inspectors busted for falsifying inspections (again, fact). Why would this bridge somehow be immune to that?

                •  Do you have a structural analysis showing this? (0+ / 0-)

                  Or did you make those numbers up?

                •  "This isn't a conspiracy theory." (0+ / 0-)
                  This isn't a conspiracy theory. The new span is not likely to survive any quake greater than a 6.0, and I have my doubts down to 5.0.
                  Let me see if I can paraphrase that for you. "I have heard some stuff from some people. I can't tell you who they are, or even what their positions are. And I can't directly quote you. And I can't actually point to any proof, or even any circumstantial evidence. And hey I can't even tell you what the exact problem actually is, [presumably] because I'm not actually an engineer and so don't really understand it. But it is not a conspiracy theory because I say so."

                  (If you are an engineer, you got your degree 60 years ago when they still thought that metal fatigue was caused by crystallization, I guess?)

                  Or, let me try again. You think that the next time we have a 5.5 earthquake around here, nothing will fall down but the Bay Bridge, and somehow none of the people who are responsible for putting it up are worried that they will be punished, fired, sued for gross negligence, arrested for criminal negligence, or strung up from the nearest light pole in retaliation. And none of the engineers who have done the analysis are actually concerned about people dying or anything, so they haven't bothered to go to the press, or anything like that, because they're all sociopaths who don't care about human beings. (Oh, sorry, or is it that the press won't print anything like that, not even the SF Bay Guardian?)

                  Look, I mean this in the kindest possible way: go get some sleep. Maybe see a physician about your anxiety condition. I understand that this stuff is kind of terrifying, and I'd be lying if I didn't find this bay bridge bullshit alarming. But you've basically just unilaterally called all of the engineers on the project simultaneously utterly depraved and evil and too stupid to remember to breathe. It's not kind, it's not true, and if it were true then you would be just as evil as they are for not getting a secret recording of one of these 'contacts' and taking it to a news organization, and instead just hanging around web sites and posting nebulous crap.

            •  But this is common with contruction projects. (5+ / 0-)

              A designer will call out a material. The public budget can't afford that material. The contractor substitutes something that is more affordable. The engineer or architect reviews that substitution and signs off on it.

              •  Which probably works out most of the time... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ray Pensador

                ...but very occasionally results in catastrophe or near-catastrophe.

                How one balances the opposing, extreme forces of hubris and paranoia is something I cannot address.

                Non futuis apud Boston

                by kenlac on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:37:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Not always (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ray Pensador

                In design/build contracts, the contractor usually has the final say (unless an experienced client makes a specific request in the contract to the contrary). You are talking about change orders, change directives and submittals.  In the old tripartite project delivery model, this was the case.  Not so much anymore.

                See my comment upthread where I explain this more in detail.

                "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

                by La Gitane on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:39:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The contractor in design/build still is (0+ / 0-)

                  required  to have the design signed off by architect and engineer.

                  •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Ray Pensador

                    but if they don't stamp off, they would have to quit.

                    In the traditional delivery method, both the architect and the contractor would have an opportunity to present their case to the owner and the owner would make a decision.  If the contractor still refused to follow the architect's specification, the owner/architect could issue a change directive, or the owner could fire the contractor.

                    Unfortunately, there is always a design professional out there willing to sign drawings for a price.  In design/build, the A/E could disagree with the contractor's decision, quit or get fired, and the contractor would just go out and find someone else to stamp the drawings - the owner may never even know of the dispute.  Design/build takes the control of the process out of the hands of the architect and therefore the owner.

                    "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

                    by La Gitane on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:00:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Not only that - but consider this - (0+ / 0-)

              Billions of dollars have been spent building this new bridge. the whole reason for building a new bridge was to prevent the loss of life should a huge earthquake occur. But with earth changes upon us, whatever standard the new bridge has been built for might be inadequate.

              So what then? We have spent all this money and people could still die.

              Meanwhile, one has to wonder if the money had been allocated to the health system in the SF Bay are - probably a number of people - exponentially higher - could have been saved. People right now are going without basic med necessities - such as diabetes meds and syringes, as one example.

              And also without the new bridge construction  - the immense amount of time that ended up meaning everyone's commute took so much longer would not have been a daily stress factor. A person has to wonder how many people had heart attacks, strokes or simply migraines from all the stress put upon people with this bridge continually causing  the transportation system in SF area to be gridlocked!

              Offer your heart some Joy every day of your life, and spread it along to others.

              by Truedelphi on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:48:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

              Do you have a structural engineering license?

              [insert holiday inn express joke here]

          •  I would not really state the the Bay Bridge (13+ / 0-)

            survived the 1989 Earthquake. Sections of it collapsed and I never drive over it without thinking about the cars that fell into the bay.

            "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

            by voracious on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:04:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Were the epicenter closer (4+ / 0-)

              or the earthquake stronger in 1989, who knows, maybe it would've dropped one of the spans to the east of the main cantilever. It was substantially reinforced afterward, so it's better than it was, but that only goes so far.

              For what it's worth, given that it was an in-house review:

              New Bay Bridge much safer than old span, new analysis shows
              By Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Contra Costa Times, 06/06/2013

              SACRAMENTO -- If the Loma Prieta earthquake were to strike again, the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would be substantially safer than the 1936 cantilevered truss span motorists use today, according to new analysis presented to Bay Area legislators Thursday.

              [...] The three agencies overseeing the Bay Bridge construction presented the new seismic comparison data to the Bay Area Caucus. Along with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, the Bay Area lawmakers requested the briefing in the wake of mounting public concerns about the $6.4 billion span's seismic safety.

              But maybe the troll would've taken care of it, heh.

              Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

              by Simplify on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:52:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Not to nitpick (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              la urracca, 6412093

              but no cars fell into the bay.  The upper deck collapsed on to the lower deck, causing a few cars to drive off the upper deck and fall to the lower deck.

              "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." - Leonard Bernstein

              by outragedinSF on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:17:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You're correct. That was what I meant to say (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                outragedinSF, la urracca, 6412093

                that the bridge collapsed onto the lower deck. I thought I remembered a story of someone having to be cut out of their car with a chainsaw but it was a long time ago.

                Either way, I HATE driving out of the city.

                "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” --Lord Vetinari

                by voracious on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:36:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  So with this and your comments that follow (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ray Pensador, Maudlin, triv33

            you are making this a personal thing about Ray and his "mental acuity".

            Can you critique the position without attacking the poster?

            Others have raised concerns about this bridge and the process.

            So, aside from Ray being a doodyhead, what have you got re this bridge project?

            The GOP says you have to have an ID to vote, but $ Millionaire donors should remain anonymous?

            by JVolvo on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:48:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The bridge is potentially unsafe. That's just (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rbird, Yohannon, Maudlin, Nattiq

          a fact, and it's not something I'm making up.  Others who are indeed engineers and industry people have said as much.

          What I'm writing here is my opinion based on everything I've read about this fiasco.

          I can accept you disagreeing with my opinion, but I don't accept your characterization of me being a "little irresponsible" for sharing my (informed) opinion about this subject.

          One could interpret that as a STFU and stick to what you know--we've got this.

        •  Hear hear! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rb608, 6412093

          This sounds like a typical project.

        •  As usual xkcd has anticipated all of this: (6+ / 0-)

          In fact, xkcd may have already anticipated everything that will ever be posted on the internet.

          Non futuis apud Boston

          by kenlac on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:31:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Admittedly, I don't know enough about (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yohannon, Ray Pensador

          structural engineering in general, and this project in particular, to weigh in.

          But... there's the CitiCorp building, NYC, when the engineers hadn't factored in wind direction to a sufficient extent:

          Granted, more than 30 years ago, now, but pretty frickin' scary. Yes, they caught it, but... it was kept secret from the public.

        •  Some of the suspect bolts are buried under tons of (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yohannon, Ray Pensador, Maudlin

          concrete in the base of the tower and are now impossible to inspect.

          Some of the professionals who are commenting here are dismissing the concerns described by the diarist. I detect a somewhat smug attitude in which they assert that their profession is apparently the only one left in which standards have not been sacrificed over the past 20 years.

          I would encourage them to read some of the articles.

          Some of them are quite hair raising. In particular it really seems that these bolts are not going to be totally trustworthy in the event of a major earthquake.

          I'll use the bridge when it opens but when I'm driving west on it I'll be pedal to the metal to try to get to the 30s era suspension portion of the bridge ASAP. I have more faith in the older design and construction.

          •  If the bolts are immersed in concrete... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            then they will not be subject to the potentially corrosive atmosphere. And the corrosion is what is supposedly the concern. If the design engineers can anticipate the problem than it is being analyzed.

            Anyway, I think smug is a little harsh. I would note, however, being smug is essentially an ingrained  character trait of being an engineer. With regards to inherent smugness engineers fall somewhere behind politicians and doctors ;)

            I have been a licensed civil engineer for over 20 years, I can honestly say that I don't think standards have changed or been sacrificed in the last 20. In my opinion, the opposite is probably true. And it has nothing to due with becoming more noble or moral or ethical, but rather becoming better at our jobs because we evolved along with the rest of society during the information age (i.e. cheap computers). As with anything you have to protect against GIGO but that is part of our jobs now: know how the software works, know what the input/design variables are and how changing them changes the output/design.

            Personally, I would like to assure you that the 30's era suspension bridge is less safe than the newly constructed portion. We did not know nearly as much about wind effects or resonate frequency back in the 1930's as we do today. Ditto that with regards to scouring, long term elemental effects, material sciences, etc. You think that they accounted for potential corrosion of bolts in the old bridge due to atmospheric conditions - not a chance.  That kind of analysis was beyond their ken.

            I am trying to come up with some big engineering failures in the last 20 years in the United States. Top of my head is the shuttle disintegration on re-entry, Ted Williams Tunnel collapse, Deepwater Horizon (not the initial fire which was a regulatory / inspection failure, but the subsequent spill certainly is the result of an engineering design failure), of course the Hyatt Regency in KC. I guess the Hyatt Regency in KC could be considered an engineering design failure since the specified rod was somewhat rare; for something so important regarding the safety of the overall design, it was the engineers responsibility to make sure that there were no substitutes.

            •  The bridge has two distinct components. (0+ / 0-)

              It's really two totally different 30s era bridges with a convenient island in the middle to anchor them together. There is a cantilever + causeway bridge between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island. There is a DOUBLE suspension bridge between the island and San Francisco.

              The cantilever/causeway section had a failure during the last earthquake. It's a double deck bridge and one section of the upper deck detached at one end and collapsed into the lower deck. That bridge was recognized as deficient. It did not age well. This is the bridge that has been replaced with a causeway and a self anchored suspension bridge immediately adjacent to the island.

              However the double suspension bridge on the San Francisco side of the island is still going strong and there was never any thought of replacing it. However it has been extensively retrofitted and strengthened after the earthquake.

              I've read that older bridges were heavily over engineered precisely because they didn't have the science and computer processing required to pare the design back to more financially efficient levels. When it comes to bridges I like over engineering.

              That is the bridge that I will be racing towards when I drive over the new replacement bridge which contains hundreds of brittle cracked bolts and many more hundreds of not yet cracked bolts that were built by the same supplier to the same bogus specs...


              Here is a comprehensive set of stories published by the Sacramento Bee on the subject of the new Bay Bridge.

              All Sac Bee Bay Bridge Stories

              Sample some of those stories and then tell me how everything is hunky dory.


              Ps. It's absurd that there is any thought of paying out 'on time' bonuses for this clusterflop. If that incentive has anything to do with opening the bridge prematurely before remediation is performed then that is infuriating.

        •  Well Mr Appleseed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador

          I won't say you seem like a douche, but I will say you are commenting on something about which you are obviously not well informed.

          Check the bolts monthly, weekly, daily? They are encased in concrete, some of them below water level, and can never be inspected again.

          In your fantasy world about the transparency of this publicly funded project, do all the required inspection signoffs and change-order signoffs still exist for public inspection? Because in this real-world example, hundreds of these documents cannot be found. The paper trail for the process that allowed bolts which had previously been banned, but got allowed after someone changed the spec to call them fasteners instead of bolts, also has holes in it.

          Get off your high horse and read up on this debacle. Then maybe your expertise would be helpful in the discussion.

        •  If anyone on the outside really knew all the (0+ / 0-)

          workarounds, fixes, engineering issues, manufacturing flaws and so forth in every complex product from cars through planes to bridges; one would never travel again.

          That is why maintenance is so important on every complex product. I would put my faith more on Caltrans than the Texas or MN department of public works or the like.

          “Never argue with someone whose livelihood depends on not being convinced.” ~ H.L. MENCKEN

          by shigeru on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:24:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Red flags by T Y Lin should make any agency (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador

          reconsider; that company has a great reputation in bridge design.

          The significant increase in bolt tension from the Richmond Bridge design to the Bay Bridge design is a big red flag all by itself. Stress corrosion cracking is an ongoing concern in a marine environment. This type of corrosion can't always be found in time by inspections; often it fails catastrophically.

          "Everything can be found at sea, according to the spirit of your quest" Conrad

          by Captain Marty on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:59:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Am I the only person in the world who finds (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the existing cantilever span to be a thing of beauty?

        I have read that it was designed by two civil engineers with slide rules.  (What else? it was the slipstick era back then.)

        As for banana republics, there's a joke about a Mexican government functionary who attends a conference in Rio, and is invited to the palatial home (atop the the Sugarloaf) of a local fellow conferee.  At some point the guest asks discretely how a mid-level functionary could afford such a place.  His host points to the Bay below, and says, "Do you see the causeway down there crossing the Bay?  I was assistant sub-treasurer, and I took 20%!"

        A few years later the scenario is reversed, and the Brazilian, now attending a conference in Mexico City, visits the hilltop mansion of his Mexican cohort.  The same question is asked.  The Mexican host replies, "Do you see the mono-rail surrounding the landscaped gardens in Chapultapec Park below us?"  "I see nothing" replies the Brazilian.  His host puffs his chest and says "100%!"

        The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

        by magnetics on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:15:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Ever been on any of the bay bridges during rush (0+ / 0-)

      hour? Golden Gate or Bay Bridge or Carquinez or Benicia bridges?

      No, Mr. Wolverton, you are correct. They cannot keep the weight off. To do so would grid lock the entire Bay Area. And the bridges are a death trap if they fall while full. (Obviously, I suppose.)

      I was working in Concord California when the Loma Prieta quake happened. I had to cross the Benicia Bridge to get home that night. We were all trying to cross BEFORE the inspectors shut the bridge down for inspection, possibly for days. (yes that was stupid, but we all just wanted to get OUT of the bay area)

      Sitting trapped on that bridge bumper to bumper for hours, praying for NO aftershocks- made me understand Just how stupid it was.

      I won't be driving on the new bay bridge. Which unfortunately won't stop my tax money from paying for it. The people who built that bridge are traitors to this country in my opinion, and should be tried and in jail for sabotage. Which I am sure will happen just as soon as Cheney and Bush are prosecuted for war crimes, and Wall Street pays back what it stole from this country.

  •  Even our "friends" at the Counci of... (18+ / 0-)

    ...Foreign Relations are warning us about falling investment in infrastructure;

    Encouraging U.S. Infrastructure Investment

    The United States has huge unpaid bills coming due for its infrastructure. A generation of investments in world-class infrastructure in the mid-twentieth century is now reaching the end of its useful life. Cost estimates for modernizing run as high as $2.3 trillion or more over the next decade for transportation, energy, and water infrastructure. Yet public infrastructure investment, at 2.4 percent of GDP, is half what it was fifty years ago.
    We seem to have forgotten how important investing in infrastructure is.

    I know Obama has called for it in another "grand bargain" but thanks to the nihilist Tea Party/GOP nothing will happen and at the state level things are becoming dangerously precarious as the bridge example points out.

    The Association of Civil Engineers gives the country a D+ grade.  IMO they are being generous.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:54:14 AM PDT

  •  They are killing us by a thousand cuts. n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, rbird, Dianna, Shockwave
  •  With all of this information (6+ / 0-)

    which goes back to 1998, where's the public action?  Millions have standing to at least go to court to seek a Mandatory Injunction on public safety grounds.  Ask the court to delay the project until the span has had an independent examination and declared safe.

    I read tons of complaints about governments -- federal, state, local and yet there is precious little actual action or calls to action.  At least the folks in Wisconsin and North Carolina put their liberty on the line as to government abuses.

    I also don't see how this project makes this country a Banana Republic.  I'm guessing you've never been in a Banana Republic.

    Good work squeezing Obama in a diary about a local issue.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:06:47 AM PDT

  •  Our banana republic status comes from income (8+ / 0-)

    inequality, low wages, the anti-union movement and all the bridges, ports and airports that need fixing, not this bridge. This actually is evidence of the opposite.

    Name one engineering project that does not have a few detractors. Were there problems with this massive undertaking? Of course. There always are when dealing with expensive new technology. Has this taken far too long? Yes. But for safety, the almost uniform consensus is that this bridge is infinitely safer than the bridge it replaces. The bolt problem will be fixed in about six months. The nay sayers at this point are just the usual crowd.

    Hope you do keep following up. And when the next earthquake knocks down the old bride and leaves this one standing, We'll be looking for your post.

    Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

    by Gary Norton on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:12:16 AM PDT

  •  Hey Ray, at least we aren't.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, rbird, Shockwave

    ... irrigating our crops with Gatorade, because it has Electrolytes and Electrolytes are good for you.... YET. :)

  •  Good story, sad excuse for a bridge. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    We used to drive over the Bay Bridge when we lived in SF.  I no longer recognize California!

    Our greatest responsibility is to be a good ancestor. Jonas Salk

    by Catkin on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:04:52 AM PDT

  •  Both Jerry Brown and Willie Brown (11+ / 0-)

    delayed construction, risking lives and causing the huge cost increases.  

    They both insisted on a spectacular bridge design that"speaks of greatness," despite the fact that an ordinary viaduct-style bridge would probably have been perfectly well-suited for the shallow waters of the eastern part of the Bay.  You build a bridge to meet the engineering and site requirements.  Aesthetics are important, but you don't build a design that appears to emphasize gratuitous impressiveness and yielding to political bulllying rather than safety, utility and cost restraint.

    How many additional years were wasted, how many extra tons of carbon exhaust were belched by waiting cars during the endless construction, how many excess billions of taxpayer dollars were spent?

    1998 LA Times article on the bridge design fiasco.

    •  Gov. Schwartzenegger delayed it too (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ctami, elfling, Be Skeptical, Farugia

      He held up construction on the bridge for half a year to do a study of what it would take to switch to a simple viaduct design. The study said that it would cost about as much to switch as it would to stick to the existing plan. So the plan went forward—only now with the delay and its associated added cost.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:00:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, it's important (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical, Farugia

        to mention the Governator's role in the delays, which essentially amounted to punishing the Bay Area for voting largely Democratic. He also, IIRC, tussled with fellow egomaniac Willie Brown over which blowhard the bridge would be named after, causing further delays in the process.

  •  Thanks for this, Ray. This kind of specific (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    focus is necessary for us to get beyond the shouting points to some understanding of where we are headed and why.

    Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but religion is assuredly the first.

    by StrayCat on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:30:22 AM PDT

  •  My next door neighbor had just gotten off the Bay (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, Simplify, la urracca

    Bridge, and was headed toward the Hwy 880 Cypress Structure at 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989. He missed being one of the 42 crushed in the Cypress Structure's collapse, or the single person killed when a single section of the bridge tore loose and tilted her car into the bay. The frame of the bridge was basically intact, although many repairs had to be made.

    We need to compare apples and apples here, and I'm not sure that's been done yet. What agency or what individual engineer has thoroughly documented the probable damage and loss of life, in the old eastern span vs the new one, in the event of big earthquakes of magnitudes 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 6.9? I know there have been studies that concluded the eastern span needed replacement, but in light of all the meshugaas that is known to have taken place, I flat out don't trust them any more than I trust Caltrans's assurances that everything will be OK. Compare the two spans- objectively- and tell us how each will fail and under what circumstances, and how great is the uncertainty in all this.

    And cancel the goddam bonuses. For heaven's sake.

  •  I Couldn't Disagree More With This Diary ... (24+ / 0-)

    As a practicing registered Civil Engineer in the State of California, one who specializes in construction, your fears of the new bridge collapsing are very much unfounded.

    I would have let this diary go by since I'm working under a deadline at present and don't have time to reply as I should. But I can at least state for the record ... for me personally ... that I hope like hell that traffic gets diverted to the new bridge before the old one sinks into the Bay mud when the next earthquake hits.

    And no, I am not associated in any way with the bridge work itself. Just well read on technical matters.

    "Long term: first the rich get mean, then the poor get mean, and the rest is history." My brother Rob.

    by Pat K California on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 11:11:04 AM PDT

    •  this (6+ / 0-)

      There are certainly issues related to some of the anchor bolts, which have presumably been mitigated with the saddle retrofits. There will be lawsuits a'plenty about who is to blame.

      But at the end of the day, everything I see suggests that  the new bridge will be vastly safer than the original.

      Plus, I'll be able to ride my bike on it!

    •  So we disagree. Here's what's been reported in (4+ / 0-)

      by The San Francisco Chronicle:

      Among the more than 1,000 pages, they pointed to a single sheet that called for the use of a particular type of high-strength steel bolt coated in molten zinc, a process known as galvanization. Such bolts, the experts warned, were prone to cracking in a moist marine environment such as San Francisco Bay and shouldn't be used.

      It turned out that the bridge design called for thousands of other bolts and rods made of that same kind of steel - fasteners strong enough to enable the unconventional span to resist the everyday vibrations created by big rigs and the far stronger forces unleashed in a large earthquake.

      The emphasis is mine

      So if experts warn that such bolts are prone to cracking in this environment, and thousands of those bolts were used, then they could fail in a case of "forces unleashed in a large earthquake."

      I wrote my opinion based on that (and many other articles I've read).

      •  The person you're replying to is an expert (6+ / 0-)

        It's not easy to become a registered civil engineer.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:34:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Uh... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador, Maudlin

 one is saying that the civil engineer in question is somehow incompetent or unethical. However, they aren't directly involved with this project are they?

          Thus the over-reaction to the idea that civil agencies may have over-ridden concerns of their engineers (an idea so clichéd that's it's become a action movie trope) strikes me as seriously mis-placed. We've had too many structural failures in this countries infrastructure (both old AND new construction) to realistically deny that the risk is real.

        •  But it's not easy to become a metallurgist either (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pat K California

          Hydrogen embrittlement is a particularly vicious mode of failure. Very difficult to detect on site.

          Most often, it manifests itself only when cracks finally develop and spread, aka when the piece fails.

          It's not like good old rust where you can identify corroded parts very easily and repair or replace.

          I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

          by Farugia on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:12:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  i guess some don't know what a banana republic is (7+ / 0-)

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 11:30:14 AM PDT

  •  Not only did the original Bay Bridge take 3 years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, OleHippieChick

    to build, but it was built simultaneously with Golden Gate bridge which also took about 3 years. Compare with 20 years for just half of the bay bridge.

  •  My great grandfather helped build the original (5+ / 0-)

    Bay Bridge.  I think he would have been very proud of how long and how well the bridge lasted.  Back then we didnt have a tenth of the knowledge and understanding of seismology, or of building to safely mitigate potential earthquake. He also would have been happy to see the new bridge built.  Sorry, Ray. I've driven over that old bridge too many times to count, with my heart in my throat sometimes.  I'll be thrilled to drive the new bridge, it is vastly safer than the old one.  It might not meet all of today's very high and exacting standards, but I guarantee that it far surpasses the old standards.

  •  I thought we were living in a banana republic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, socal altvibe

    a few years back.  I went to a Lakers game (boyfriend's idea, I'm not really a sports person, lack of time)  at the time
    the Staples Center was new, and surprisingly the roof leaked.

    I thought wow, we are in LA, the center of the known universe, where it's supposed to be the best of the best, glowing blue purple in downtown LA like a beacon of the future, wealthy celebrities abounding, in the state of the art flashy new facility...and wow, the roof leaks.  It's new?  I remember having a conversation at the time with my boyfriend that this is definitely a banana republic.  

    •  You were sitting in a sports stadium... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yoshimi, virginislandsguy, Chrislove

      to watch a basketball team...

      presumably because you had freely made a decision to purchase tickets to see that team...

      play in a league with revenues in the billions of dollars...

      in a stadium built with $375 million dollars of private financing...

      which had a flaw...

      and that made you think we live in a Banana Republic.

      Non futuis apud Boston

      by kenlac on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:28:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For sure. It is precisely because Staples Center (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Pensador

        was so new and state of the art, and so much money and prestige presumably comes with the Lakers, which is why I immediately remarked at the time, and boyfriend concurred, it was like a banana republic.

        In my view of the universe, a new roof isn't supposed to leak all over Kobe Bryant

        •  Let me try this one more time: (4+ / 0-)

          Banana republics don't have privately funded multi-million dollar sports stadiums or Kobe Bryants.

          Non futuis apud Boston

          by kenlac on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:39:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  In a real banana republic, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mikidee, Chrislove

          you'd be watching public executions in the Staples Center, not a basketball game.

          What you describe is UpperClassProblems not a banana republic.

          •  I think we can agree to disagree but (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ray Pensador, Going the Distance

            Of course we are a rich nation, which goes to your point but also to my point, and this is my honest opinion since it happened, Staples Center leaking on a world class sports team, probably the most famous one of all, well, for me it was a black eye for the United States

            I mean, take say LAX, as a side example on a different topic.  Compare it to most other airports out there (European, Asian, Latin American), and I'm sure you can find exceptions to the rule, but America is not keeping up to standards the way it should be.  They way they treat people as opposed to other airports, it needs to be improved to higher standards.

            Our infrastructure is falling apart and we all supposed to be concerned we're broke, when we're the richest country on earth

            We can probably do a lot better instead of going this direction, towards a banana republic.  Are we there?  No but we are heading in that direction (look at bridges, the topic of this diary, mass transit) etc..

            •  So tell me Dianna (0+ / 0-)

              How much are tickets to a Lakers Game?

              •  And explain does that have to do with it nt (0+ / 0-)
              •  Actually (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ray Pensador

                at the time probably less than a hundred, but I'm just guessing  

                •  In a banana republic who would that make you? (0+ / 0-)

                  The plantation owner or the workers in the fields?

                •  You'll notice a patter: not sticking to the (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  subject; childish name-calling and mockery; absurd questions, etc.  It's up to you, but once you see that pattern I think is better not to engage since at that point your not dealing with people who are really interested in discussing the topic in an intellectually-honest manner.

                  •  Yeah, I guess you're right. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Ray Pensador

                    Sometimes I fall for it.  I used to comment here a while ago and I'm not used to the way, in my view, the place has changed.  Thanks.

                    •  They're goading people to distract from the (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      subject.  Why?  I don't know.  But I think people hare are smarting up about.  It really is not worth it to engage them.

                      •  Really? You don't know? (0+ / 0-)

                        I can tell you why I'm pissed off at you, Ray.

                        It's because some of us have been following this story carefully. Some of us have the background to understand it reasonably well (although my materials science class was a reeeeally long time ago). And you come in and you just spray truths, half-truths, and outright fictions around like one of those garden sprayers that ends up watering the side of my house.

                        And I know, I know, you have no idea that you're doing that. But you're also clearly unwilling to let anyone who, you know, actually does know what he or she is talking about correct you, because it goes against the narrative that you have constructed about the situation.

                        And then you fail to understand, clearly simply don't grasp, why someone might find this frustrating.

                        Well, that's fine. You've accomplished whatever it was you want to accomplish, and most of the people who are hanging out here who don't have a background in engineering (or physics, in my case) believe you. But there, I've told you exactly why people who do have such a background are getting so pissy about this. So you can't go around pretending that you don't understand that, at least, any more. And should you continue to do so, then at least in that case you KNOW that you're lying.

                        •  So your feelings are hurt. Ohhh, your angry! (0+ / 0-)

                          And because your feelings are so hurt and you'r so very angry you come into my diary to write one absurdity after another, driven by anger.... Yes, you took physics, and all that, and you've really been following all this stuff for a long time, and how there someone else disagree with your narrative.

                          And I'm insulting hundreds of thousands of people who have died in the past due to engineering failures.

                          And then you have to audacity to call me a liar.

                          I can almost see the veins popping out of your neck in anger.

                          No need to respond to straw man arguments, and lazy attempts at character assassination.  Again, it's almost funny.

    •  ..... (0+ / 0-)

      I don't mind if you're straight. Just don't flaunt it in public.

      by Chrislove on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 05:14:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wait, this bridge is proof of a banana republic? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There's a long and ugly history of bad bridge design, terrible urban renewal and public works programs, and all sorts of other bad choices in the US and around the world, especially post-WWII. I live near Albany, which I think is where good civil engineering went to die. Look at the destruction of the West End and Scollay Square in Boston or the demolishing of the original Penn Station in NYC or any other number of other terrible "urban renewal" projects. Heck, I fully expect the new Tappen Zee Bridge to be a fiasco. What makes this bridge the final proof?

    Also, as a chemist, I would like to know what the heck they mean by "invaded by hydrogen." I can't see the article, so I have no idea if it makes sense in context. But it sounds like nonsense in the quote.

    •  Falsified reports; broken bolts; rushing to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      finish so bonuses can be distributed; misleading statements by top officials.  Yeah, it sounds like it...

    •  Hydrogen (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      asterion, Yohannon, Ray Pensador

      That has been mentioned repeatedly in articles about the flaws in the bolts toward the base of the bridge.

      The bolts that broke on the bridge were installed in 2008. Caltrans has blamed the problem on hydrogen contamination that made the steel brittle.
      Tests have discovered hydrogen in some of the damaged steel rods on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, an indication of weakness in the metal, state transportation officials said Thursday.
      •  Okay, so it's a forging issue (1+ / 0-)

        I was thinking the comments were about something happening to the cold steel that was already up and couldn't see any way that would make sense.

        •  No, it's not a forging issue. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ray Pensador, turn blue

          Hydrogen embrittlement can occur during manufacturing but this is not the problem at hand.

          The problem for the Bay Bridge is that marine environments can create reducing anoxic conditions where hydrogen is produced and migrates into the metal to cause embrittlement.

          Galvanized steel is a cost effective and highly reliable material as long it is used in an oxidizing environment so it can maintain its properties. But, here, it looks like they decided to use it in the wrongestest place possible.

          I would have to dig further into the particulars but I can see at least five different factors at play here.

          - Use of HSLA steel
          - Heavy tensile loads
          - Wet anoxic reducing environment
          - Presence of chlorides (and, likely, presence of sulfides)
          - Use of zinc coating

          It happens that this combination of materials and physical and chemical conditions is extremely favorable to hydrogen embrittlement and failures.

          I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

          by Farugia on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 05:32:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think your title is a bit hyperbolic. (11+ / 0-)

    The delays, corruption, shoddy workmanship etc involved in the Bay Bridge project are no secret and it has all played out publicly with much debate for years. I don't think the flaws of that project are any more of an indication that we're collectively living in a "banana republic" than I would think that we're living in a collective "utopia" just because I was inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta a few years ago when it withstood a tornado that went directly over it.

    Both are/were public works projects that are not emblematic of our 50-state nation in its entirety.

  •  Another reason not to live in California (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dianna, Maudlin

    Hey, I thought CA was in a big budget crunch, can't afford schools, cities going bankrupt, not enough money in state pension funds .... yet they can spend $6B on a monument to the automobile's domination of US society?
    Also, I agree that crappy construction is nothing new here. "Galloping Gertie" the 1940-built bridge on Puget Sound, only lasted a week after it was opened before it tore itself apart in a windstorm -- of 30MPH!!!!

    Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizam!

    by fourthcornerman on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:09:40 PM PDT

    •  Don't forget the bridge over there in Seattle (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ray Pensador, la urracca

      area that went down with people on it this year.

      With regards to California, I love the state and it retains its beauty in spite of the very true things you point out about how it's being neglected currently.  I just wish they'd fix up LAX so we can match what other nations are investing in, for starters

  •  Ignore Design Master Lin at your peril, Caltrans. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    The new bridge is hideous IMO. We drove over the old bridge in 1969.

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes

    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:13:29 PM PDT

  •  I've been following this debacle (7+ / 0-)

    and it's pure incompetence from start to finish.

    Both of my great-uncles worked on the original Bay Bridge.  They were tough Irishmen of the type that helped build San Francisco.  Even they knew that the conditions on the Bay are extremely conducive to corrosion, a fact that has seemed to stump Caltrans.

    The Chronicle is really one of the best investigative newspapers left.  Their coverage of the PG&E San Bruno disaster was incredible - they really exposed PG&E's hijinks.  Looks like they're dong the same now with Caltrans.

    you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

    by Dem Beans on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:23:07 PM PDT

  •  Besides having a ridiculous title (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan G in MN, 6412093, emelyn

    there are some pretty bold claims here that are not supported by extraordinary support, such as

    I've noticed that there appears to be some sort of cover up as to the exact details about how the construction of this new bridge became such a massive failure.
    There has been so much coverage of this bridge down to the nth degree including full retrospectives of the entire design process, the whole bolt-testing issue, and any other manner of coverage, by many different reporters, not the least of which is the Chron's reporting.

    And the supposition that there is dirty pool in the payment of the agreed upon contractual bonuses is unwarranted, imo.

    Could this project have been done differently?  Sure.  But is there major corruption and malfeasance here?  I really don't think so, and I've read almost every piece of coverage on this project from the get go.


    "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." - Leonard Bernstein

    by outragedinSF on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:18:25 PM PDT

  •  No matter what happens the democratic (0+ / 0-)

    governor and assembly in my state will wear any blame. The workarounds which included shims were recommended by independent engineering consultants as I recall. The fix was personally approved by Gov. Brown.

    “Never argue with someone whose livelihood depends on not being convinced.” ~ H.L. MENCKEN

    by shigeru on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:19:53 PM PDT

  •  Life is cheap in a Banana Republic! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    When it was first announced that the defective bolts would not stall the labor day weekend opening, as planned, some structural engineer/s was/were quoted as saying that the old structure was not safe anyway, so they may as well open the new one.  What?

    Did these folks go to the the Fukushima School of Engineering and Public Relations?  Or what?

    Sorry I can't give links to this.  It's only hearsay.  I heard it on TV and didn't think I would ever need or want to post it, so I didn't note where.

    "...capitalism is rudderless. It has no reliable indicators. Everything is rigged..." Paul Craig Roberts

    by dharmasyd on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 04:43:16 PM PDT

  •  Safety worker fired for fabricated inspection (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, happymisanthropy

    reports? I don't get this part of the diary. Once piles are driven (buried, in the diary), they are not inspected for structural integrity. The are inspected during fabrication and before placement, and for correct placement (location). What was reported as wrong? Were load tests done? Did Wiles report those wrong? That would be not easy to falsify. If the concrete was fabricated with bad concrete or of poorly consolidated concrete, this would have been found before placement. Are you saying Wiles (Caltrans) found errors in the fabrication and was fired so that the faulty piles could be used?

    The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. Mark Twain

    by BlueMississippi on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:37:58 PM PDT

  •  Demolition OK'ed for tower w/building flaws in LV (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    On Friday, a District Court judge gave the owners of the  uncompleted Harmon tower on the Las Vegas strip the OK to have it demolished due to massive engineering flaws during construction.  An engineering expert testified that more than 7,000 defects were found during one testing phase with every element tested having at least one flaw and nearly all having multiple flaws.  He said that due to the flaws the tower could collapse in a major earthquake.

    Today's headline story in the LV Review-Journal has not (yet) been posted online but there is a 2-year old story here that discusses the problems.

    So, yeah, sometimes architects and engineers screw up

    It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. G. K. Chesterton

    by redbaron on Sat Aug 24, 2013 at 09:36:12 AM PDT

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