Californians trade hard-earned tax dollars for broken bridge and potentially criminal activity

Posted by LDonia on 01/23/2014

Look, no one likes the guy or gal who says “I told you so!” so we won’t do that.

But let’s just say, your friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) are not at all surprised at the news out of California today.

It seems a consultant for the California Senate’s Transportation Committee penned quite the interesting exposé: a report that paints quite a sordid picture of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

For those just tuning in, some background:

Back in 2011, officials in California chose a Chinese firm to supply the steel for the new Bay Bridge. Initially, officials said it was because Americans didn’t have the capacity to get the job done, but alas, that was proven not to be the case. The team in California opted for the Chinese company, the lowest bidder, because it said it would get the job done more quickly. (The American companies bidding said this was not possible.)

As champions of American manufacturing, AAM was displeased. So much so, we took out a billboard to let people know.

The problems began almost immediately. In early 2012, California taxpayers doled out more money than expected when the steel girders from China proved to be faulty. Fast forward to September 2013, the Bay Bridge opened years late and a few billion dollars over budget. (Remember what the American steel companies said, about how fast this job could realistically come together?)

All good, right? We’ve got a bridge, the Bay Area is happy!

No. Not right. Wrong.

Back to that Transportation Committee report, which, according to the Sacramento Bee, “offers background for a Friday hearing to examine allegations of lapses in quality control during a push to complete a structure running years behind schedule and billions over budget.”

Lapses in quality control, you say?

We’ll let the Bee take it from here:

  • Quality control managers found thousands of cracks in welds produced by a Chinese contractor for the span’s signature tower and roadway. Rather than ordering all needed fixes, top California Department of Transportation managers replaced those who discovered the problems.
  • Millions of dollars were paid to the same Chinese contractor to speed up work after it fell behind schedule and bridge officials urgently wanted faster results.
  • Officials frequently told contractors and employees not to put concerns about quality into writing – ostensibly to avoid disclosure under the state Public Records Act.

In short: Parts of the bridge were deemed to have major structural deficiencies, but instead of demanding fixes California transportation officials moved or chose not to renew contracts of individuals who pointed out the flaws … in the interest of getting the bridge done quickly.

It seems speed, rather than safety, was the key concern.

We’re interested to see what happens during Friday’s hearing, because, as the Bee reminds us, “some matters might be referred to legal authorities for prosecution.” This isn’t just about the speed at which the bridge came together, or the lack of interest in the safety of California drivers. Something criminal happened.

We’ll keep you updated.

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