Even though the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge opened nine months ago, a list of unresolved issues raises startling concerns about the integrity and maintenance costs of the $6.5 billion structure and the cover-up by Caltrans officials overseeing construction.
Questions remain about the strength of thousands of bolts, including at the base of the tower and the connections of the main cable; cracked welds in the suspension span; and rusting of the single cable holding up the bridge.
There are also concerns about the integrity of the concrete foundation piles holding up the bridge tower; weakened steel tendons inside the concrete of the causeway approach; and leaks in the road deck.
It's time for public officials, especially members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, state legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown, to demand thorough independent analyses.
Members of MTC, which collects bridge tolls, engaged when the span's Labor Day weekend opening was endangered by last year's bolt debacle. But after it opened, most commissioners lost interest in pursuing troubling outstanding issues
If not for the investigative reporting of Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee and Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle, construction problems would have been hidden from public view.
And if not for state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier's use of legislative oversight authority, we never would have known how Caltrans officials tried to silence the agency's consultants and engineers who raised questions.
Caltrans will soon decide whether contractors have completed their work. Once it deems the construction finished, toll payers will be stuck with remaining problems. But we still don't know if the unique structure is a thing of beauty with a few minor flaws, or a steel lemon.
It's likely that, absent a political outcry, Caltrans will sign off. From the start, agency officials have failed to adequately oversee the construction and thrown public money at problems while trying to cover up their own failures. Brown, ultimately responsible for Caltrans, has dismissed concerns about the bridge's integrity.
DeSaulnier, D-Concord, seems to be the only seriously engaged public official. His hearings prompted the administration to finally initiate a California Highway Patrol investigation examining Caltrans' handling of welding problems plaguing Chinese-made sections of the span and silencing of those who complained. And a panel commissioned by the state Legislative Analyst's Office at DeSaulnier's request is currently conducting a limited review of Caltrans' work.
But no one is conducting a thorough independent analysis of the long list of issues. And there's no cry for one from public officials. Most don't seem to want to hear the answers.