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Lawmaker wants criminal probe into new Bay Bridge

  • This Dec. 26, 2013 file photo shows the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reflected on the water in a view from Treasure Island in San Francisco. On Thursday, July 24, 2014, Marwan Nader, the chief designer of the new span told bridge oversight officials at a meeting that more than 2,000 bolts and rods on the span do not need to be replaced after 32 other bolts cracked when they were tightened last year. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)

SACRAMENTO — A California lawmaker is calling for a criminal investigation into construction problems on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said a Senate investigative report to be released this week will show how the California Department of Transportation knowingly accepted substandard work on the $6.5 billion span, which opened last fall, according to the Sacramento Bee (http://bit.ly/1rNgVUG ).

"We don't know what we got for that — how much it will cost to maintain the bridge and what will happen when there's another (major earthquake)," said DeSaulnier, who is running for Congress and is leaving the state Senate this year.

The upcoming report also confirms an investigation by the Bee in June that found that Caltrans knowingly accepted potentially hazardous work by a Chinese firm that welded most of the new roadway and tower, DeSaulnier said.

The Transportation and Housing Committee, chaired by DeSaulnier, will discuss the report on Aug. 5. New witnesses will back up earlier testimony about the welding problems and issues with the concrete foundation of the span's iconic tower, DeSaulnier said.

The California Highway Patrol is also investigating how Caltrans and its contractors handled weld cracks made by the Chinese firm.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said the new span has already been the subject of many reviews and his agency would embrace further oversight. He looks forward to the Senate hearing "as an opportunity to talk about why our confidence is so high" in the bridge's safety, Dougherty said.

Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and chairman of the oversight committee for Bay Bridge construction, has said the new span is solid and will last 150 years.

Plans to build the new eastern span began after a small section of the old eastern span collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, killing one motorist. The replacement span was originally estimated to cost $1.3 billion, but disputes among public officials led to more than $400 million in cost overruns and years of construction delays.

Independent experts have expressed concerns about several construction issues, including misaligned and cracked welds, the quality of concrete on the tower foundation and corrosion of internal tendons that support the roadway.

Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com


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