Bay Bridge

Tony Anziano, who led troubled Bay Bridge effort, will retire

Tony Anziano, who managed the construction of the new Bay Bridge, listens to testimony at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing in August 2012 on allegations of flawed testing on state bridges revealed in Bee investigation.
Tony Anziano, who managed the construction of the new Bay Bridge, listens to testimony at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing in August 2012 on allegations of flawed testing on state bridges revealed in Bee investigation. Sacramento Bee file

Tony Anziano, a California Department of Transportation executive who managed the troubled construction process for the new $6.5 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, has filed for retirement, according to CalPERS.

Anziano, an attorney, recently left his role as program manager for construction and seismic retrofitting of Bay Area bridges. Dan McElhinney, chief deputy for Caltrans District 4, has taken over Anziano’s duties as liaison between Caltrans and the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, a body mandated by the Legislature to oversee spending and construction on the new span. The moves follow the December retirement of Kenneth Terpstra, a top Anziano deputy.

Anziano did not respond to a request for comment, and a Caltrans representative declined to comment.

As construction defects – including broken anchor rods and doubts about the suspension span foundation – were brought to light in recent years by The Sacramento Bee and other media, Anziano faced increasingly critical scrutiny.

During a January 2014 state Senate hearing, current and former bridge officials said that to speed production, Anziano compromised on quality, leading to unqualified Chinese workers producing hundreds of cracked welds. Many of those welds were never repaired. Witnesses at the hearing alleged that Anziano tried to hide bad news from the public by ordering subordinates not to document flaws – charges he denied.

“You are always better off with the most documentation you can get, but please make sure it is accurate,” Anziano said at the hearing before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. “I never told any of these individuals to avoid putting things in writing.”

Anziano said some bridge managers were removed from the China job to improve operations, not because they complained about quality lapses.

That hearing marked the nadir of Anziano’s tenure as the bridge’s chief executive. Then-Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, committee chairman, told Anziano that his responses were unconvincing compared to testimony from critics who described a “deliberate and willful … attempt to obfuscate what is happening to the public.”

Staring directly at Anziano and Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty, DeSaulnier said, “sitting here today ... I don’t believe you. And I don’t believe that the public has the greatest confidence in what you’ve said.”

DeSaulnier, elected to Congress last year, said in an interview that Anziano and other officials have yet to provide clear answers about the many problems on the bridge.

“Why it was billions over budget? Why was it 10 years late? And why is it in the condition it’s in?” he said, citing doubts about structural integrity due to cracked welds and other defects.

“I wish (Anziano) well, but it’s frustrating that there’s never been anyone in the management of the bridge who has been held accountable,” leaving taxpayers and toll payers to pick up the tab, DeSaulnier said.

Call The Bee’s Charles Piller, (916) 321-1113. Follow him on Twitter @cpiller.

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