Steve Heminger is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission executive director, and chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee.

Another View: Editorial repeats innuendo about safety of Bay Bridge

Published: Sunday, Jul. 6, 2014 - 12:00 am

The new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is not only an “architectural wonder,” as The Sacramento Bee’s editorial grudgingly concedes (“Is the Bay Bridge safe? A full investigation will give answer”; June 29). It is also safe and built to last. After two and a half years of reporting, The Bee has yet to provide any conclusive evidence to refute that simple fact.

Instead, we have been treated to a steady stream of innuendo, “expert” opinion from college professors who have never built a bridge and sensationalized headlines that often bear no relationship to the news story underneath them. The Bee’s editorial repeats the pattern.

In an editorial about the Bay Bridge, The Bee refers to a Caltrans bridge inspector who “falsified test results,” leaving an impression that these test results were related to the Bay Bridge. In fact, there was such an inspector, but those falsified test results were on other projects.

The Bee next waves the flag of protectionism, and blames the state for not “buying American steel and employing U.S. steelworkers.” In fact, the Bay Bridge project – like any Caltrans job – was governed by the Contract Code which requires that construction bids be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. That protects American taxpayers.

The Bee complains that the Chinese steel supplier for the self-anchored portion of the new east span “had never built a bridge before this project.” Well, that would be except for the two steel bridges for which it acted as steel supplier before the east span. ZPMC acted in a similar supplier role to the actual contractor/builder for the Bay Bridge, American Bridge/Fluor Joint Venture.

The Bee claims to be “dumbfounded” that there has not been greater federal oversight of the Bay Bridge project. Actually, we invited the Federal Highway Administration to peer-review our approach to challenges that arose during construction of the new span.

Finally, The Bee calls on Gov. Jerry Brown to convene a “full and independent investigation” of whether the bridge is seismically sound.

By my count, this would be the 15th outside look at some aspect of the east span, including the ongoing peer review conducted by three members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

I seriously doubt that another investigation would satisfy The Bee in any case. After two and a half years, one thing is clear: The Bee is not going to let a few facts get in the way of a good story.


Steve Heminger is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission executive director, and chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee. Its regular quarterly reports can be found at baybridgeinfo.org/tbpoc.

Read more articles by Steve Heminger



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