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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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