On Thursday, the three-member oversight panel supervising the Bay Bridge construction project voted to punish the chief contractor, American Bridge/Fluor, by withholding $8 million in payments and fining the contractor another $3 million.
The withheld payments were to be directed toward the cost of the $24 million retrofit for the 2013 failure of 32 steel rods that broke on the bridge’s seismic stabilizers and triggered work by Caltrans costing $45 million. The $3 million fine was triggered by the flooding of 400 anchor rods at the tower’s base. Of the 400 anchor rods, over 100 refilled with saltwater after they water had been removed from them.
Steve Heminger, the chairman of the panel and the executive director of the Metropolitan Transporation Commission in the Bay Area, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We need to have a day of reckoning, and that is today…There were elements in the cost and the quality that were substandard. We need to hold those responsible to account.”
The panel also fined the bridge design joint venture T.Y. Lon International/Moffat Nichol $8 million.
American Bridge/Fluor representatives have protested that the company’s work was good and that they would aid Caltrans in repairing the tower rods.
Brian Maroney, the bridge’s chief engineer, defended Caltrans, asserting that there is “no solid evidence at all” that hydrogen embrittlement caused water to seep into the high-strength steel. He added, “The bottom of that tower is not going anywhere.”
When the bridge was initially finished, Heminger, who was then the chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, gushed, “Getting our bridge built before an earthquake hit was a race against time and we won that race,” but added, “Folks made mistakes and folks need to pay for those mistakes.”