Leaning Tower of China: Dangerous New Flaws Discovered in Outsourced Bay Bridge Construction

Chinese Bay Bridge
Ever since former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to outsource major components of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge renovation to Chinese contractors, members of the labor community have expressed concern about quality and jobs being compromised in the name of cutting costs.  In the end, no real money was saved and the project continues to experience cost overruns and delays.  

As we wrote in June of 2014, many of the issues have stemmed from the outsourced Chinese steel.  

Now, The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that recent tests discovered more widespread cracking in the high-strength steel rods that secure the base of the tower.  The latest report shows the problem is more serious than previously acknowledged by Caltrans (California Department of Transportation).   

Rust and microscopic cracking were found after one of 424 fasteners intended to keep the tower from being damaged in an earthquake was removed for testing last year. The problems were found on the lower part of the rod, which became flooded because of a botched grouting and caulking job during construction — a mistake that resulted in many of the 25-foot-long fasteners stewing in water for several years.

But test program documents reviewed by The Chronicle indicate that cracks were also found at the top, where the rod had been under stress but had not been soaking in water. The discovery is a troubling development for Caltrans because such cracks can get worse over time, leading to total failure, possibly during a quake.

Caltrans may have to pull out the pocketbook once more to bolster the tower’s anchoring system, a costly solution that would put the project further in the red.  The $6.4 billion project is currently running a deficit of $10 million.  Caltrans must, at the very least, pay for more tests.

Caltrans has previously acknowledged that the high-strength galvanized-steel rods that anchor the tower were put at greater risk of cracking during processing, suffered damage in shipment, were left standing in corrosive water and then put under heightened stress when the tower was pulled back to keep it from leaning toward Oakland.  As corrosion expert Russ Kane told The San Francisco Chronicle, “You are almost afraid to look around the next corner — there’s so many things being piled on top of each other here that all go the wrong direction.  You ask yourself, what can go wrong next?”

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