Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Governor Brown on Bay Bridge: "Shit happens"

Why are these people laughing?

Among city journalists, only Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders is digging into the Bay Bridge fiasco:

Last month, state Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier presided over a hearing to examine a report commissioned on the project, "Lessons Learned From the Development and Construction of the Bay Bridge." Like Diogenes searching for an honest man, DeSaulnier has been searching for professionals who have shown "real alarm" about weld cracks and steel left to stew in water and why 32 out of 96 key bolts cracked when workers tightened them. Quality-assurance inspector Jim Merrill and engineer Doug Coe found cracks in panel welds. They testified that management discouraged them from putting their concerns in writing. When they persisted, Merrill's firm lost its contract, and Coe was transferred to the Antioch Bridge.

Stuff like this doesn't only happen in New Jersey. In fact this is the way all big construction projects operate. Once begun they are dubbed "too big to stop," and they often begin with lies about how much they will cost.

Last year, when a reporter asked Brown about the Bay Bridge follies, he tossed off a scatological retort: "S- happens." Now his office simply refers me to [state Transportation Secretary Brian]Kelly. As Oakland mayor, Brown helped delay this project. As governor, Brown skipped last year's opening festivities. The governor wants voters to forget the bridge debacles as he pushes a $68 billion high-speed-rail project. It, too, will take decades. It, too, will have an army of bureaucrats who will come and go, first pocketing paychecks and later deflecting accountability when things go wrong...DeSaulnier asked Coe if anyone from the governor's office or someone higher than a project manager sought him out to find out what happened. Coe replied, "Nobody's ever come to ask, and I find that fascinating."

Kathy Hamilton on the Bay Bridge hearing.

The complete report by the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee: THE SAN FRANCISCO-OAKLAND BAY BRIDGE: BASIC REFORMS FOR THE FUTURE

From that report:

It is the finding of this investigation that there appear to have been chronic attempts to keep many of the serious safety allegations quiet, put aside and not dealt with in an open, businesslike manner in the public’s best interest. This is demonstrated in deck weld issues and the now infamous anchor rods or bolts issues, as well as many other controversies that have come to light largely through the news media rather than public disclosure by government agencies. Furthermore, this inquiry has come to the inevitable conclusion that there are legitimate concerns that this appears to be part of an institutionalized, if not malicious, lack of transparency in the project. 

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