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....
Before folks start blaming China and the Chinese Company, let's start with blaming the baffoonings in government for authorizing this....

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....

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Bay Bridge’s troubled China connection
How Caltrans’ choice of an inexperienced company left structural doubts and cost taxpayers

BY CHARLES PILLER

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/static/sinclair/si...
http://www.sacbee.com/static/sinclair/si...

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.

...


But Caltrans’ decision to hire an inexperienced Chinese company, unaccustomed to the rigor of American construction rules, to fabricate the suspension span’s signature tower and roadway partly explains why costs ballooned to $6.5 billion and misgivings persist about the quality of the bridge. Caltrans continued to bet on ZPMC by relaxing U.S. standards when the firm couldn’t finish fast enough.

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.

photo
PHOTO COURTESY JW MARRIOTT SHANGHAI TOMORROW SQUARE
Caltrans paid as much as $567 per night for a room at the five-star JW Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square.
Caltrans employees and U.S. contractors who supervised the job lived fulltime in Shanghai, and top officials flew there often. Tony Anziano, toll bridge program manager, alone spent more than $300,000 on travel.

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.

Submitted by joec on June 9, 2014 - 6:51pm.

This is why I really would like all government / tax dollars be very open book for people to scrutinize. All companies waste money, but it's rare that company execs would fly on the most expensive tickets or stay at the best hotel rooms...

This is not surprising though and I'm sure he was bragging to all his friends as well.

I feel the whole world at this point is a grab all you can state and can only wish for some power (coming of Jesus / or Aliens or whatever) to clean up this shit.

Submitted by spdrun on June 9, 2014 - 7:24pm.

Nothing new here -- joec meet Tammany Hall. Tammany Hall, meet joec.

Oh yeah, and the Army Beef Scandal ... more soldiers died from contaminated food than bullets in the Spanish-American War. Americans have always been willing to throw taxpayers and their fellow citizens under a bus (or a stagecoach) for profit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Stat...

Institutionalized corruption is as American as baseball and likely even older. Transparency won't cut it unless it's total, since it's easy to hide kickbacks in payments to corporations, especially if the kickbacks are a comparatively small % of the total.

There should be a Buy American mandate for construction of critical infrastructure, which would make the firms involved subject to the reach of US law. And either criminal prosecution or personal lawsuits against the people who received favors should also be options.

Lastly, TSOR on Mr. Anziano doesn't show a professional engineering license. The man is apparently an attorney who was California state counsel before he was appointed manager of this project. This type of department should really be headed by a seasoned engineer, not by a political hack appointee.

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