San Diego Housing Market News and Analysis
Bay Bridge: Our tax dollars at work for ya!
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Submitted by Coronita on June 9, 2014 - 12:45pm
Yup... Our tax dollars at work ya....
Sure the initial bid was $250million below the lowest domestic builder... Of course, Caltran ended up spending more than that.........
So much for government creating jobs for domestics....
Bay Bridge’s troubled China connection
BY CHARLES PILLER
The Chinese company hired to build key parts of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge had never built a bridge.
Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co. Ltd., after all, was a manufacturer of giant cranes for container ports.
The California Department of Transportation agreed to contract the company known as ZPMC in 2006 because it had established a reputation as fast and cost-effective, offering savings of about $250 million compared to the competing bidder.
Bridge officials were racing to finish the span, pushed years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget by political squabbles and construction delays. Fearful that the old bridge might not survive a major quake, they wanted speed and savings.
Caltrans asked an outside expert to assess whether ZPMC could do the job, and Jim Merrill, a senior materials contractor for the bridge project, gave the company a “contingent pass.” He also labeled it “high risk.” Among other problems, ZPMC didn’t have enough qualified welders or inspectors, the audit noted, and routinely welded in the rain, a basic error that often causes defects.
Undeterred, Caltrans signed off.
Caltrans overrode bridge welding codes and near-universal requirements for new bridge construction when it deemed many cracks in welds produced by ZPMC inconsequential and left them in place to hurry construction along, Caltrans documents show.
By selecting a bridge-building neophyte in Shanghai to fabricate the iconic suspension span of the new Bay Bridge, Caltrans took on logistical complexity and escalating travel bills.
Part of that cost was for Anziano’s room at the five-star JW Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square for up to $470 per night, according to his expense reports. One of the city’s most luxurious hotels, it features a 60th floor library – the world’s highest – marble bathrooms and a lavish Mandara Spa. Anziano, the top Caltrans official on the bridge project, almost always stayed at Tomorrow Square, in the stylish Puxi shopping district, across the teeming metropolis from the bridge jobsite.
Kenneth Terpstra, a deputy to Anziano, often stayed at the same hotel, up to 27 days at a stretch, for as much as $567 per night.
Caltrans described the accommodations as "reasonable and appropriate" in a written statement. "The hotel provided a government rate that was comparable to rates at other western hotels," and followed bargaining agreements, based in part on providing adequate "safety and support for employees far from home."
Caltrans employees on long-term assignments in Shanghai stayed at the Marriott Executive Apartments – at the top end of the local long-stay hotel market, according to the leasing agency bizstay.com. For more than three years, Caltrans paid about $50,000 annually per person to rent more than a dozen well-appointed rooms with access to a state-of-the-art fitness center and pool, according to lease agreements.
Anziano made at least 64 such visits over six years between 2006 and 2012, jetting from San Francisco to Shanghai as often as four times a month, often staying one or two days, according to travel records obtained under the California Public Records Act. For a two-day trip in 2011 he paid $6,266 in plane fare, although a coach ticket at the time typically cost less than $1,500.
"Real time on-site observations and conversation were (critical) to effective management of the program and project," Caltrans said about Anziano’s trips.
Anziano usually billed his travel for the Bay Bridge to the Bay Area Toll Authority, funded mostly by bridge tolls. In the process, he accumulated about 400,000 frequent flyer miles for his personal use, as permitted by state law.
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