As more key Caltrans workers and consultants break their silence, it becomes harder to believe Tony Anziano, the manager in charge of construction of the new western span of the Bay Bridge.

They say he ignored their concerns about substandard quality and testing, tried to silence them, insisted they not put complaints in writing and punished them when they didn't play ball.

Anziano denies the accusations, suggesting the individuals were sometimes at fault. He says one angered the contractor he was overseeing, another was abusive to a fellow worker and two wanted more autonomy.

The old and new eastern spans of the Bay Bridge are seen from Oakland on April 8, 2014. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
The old and new eastern spans of the Bay Bridge are seen from Oakland on April 8, 2014. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Those are the conflicting perspectives contained in a report commissioned by the state Senate transportation committee, led by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, that examines why bridge costs ballooned from $1.4 billion to $6.4 billion yet serious questions remain about its life span.

The report portrays a rush to finish with little regard for expense and at the sacrifice of quality. "At least nine top bridge engineers, scientists, and other distinguished bridge construction experts who worked on the project have similar stories of being gagged and banished," writes the report's author, investigative journalist Roland De Wolk.

—... (T)hey have consistent tales about admonishments by management to avoid keeping written records of the discords that could help document -- or dismiss -- their criticisms and concerns."


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The report reinforces that Gov. Jerry Brown must get beyond his blind defense of the bridge project and fix Caltrans' unprofessional culture of intimidation, secrecy and denial.

As Oakland mayor, Brown insisted on the signature design that drove up costs and added delays. As governor, he has dismissed Caltrans' costly mistakes. "(Expletive) happens," he said at one point. And in 2012, he vetoed DeSaulnier's bill to establish an independent inspector general for transportation.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Dougherty, Brown's Caltrans director, defends Anziano and the bridge project. Remember, it was Dougherty who gave contradictory answers last year about the infamous failed rods. And it was Anziano who arrogantly ignored highly respected outside engineers with divergent views about the metallurgical breakdown.

Anziano, an attorney, remains in charge of bridge construction despite mounting evidence, detailed by De Wolk, that he squelched technical experts' concerns to keep the project progressing:

  • James Merrill, an outside engineer and welding expert, warned that the Chinese firm that built the steel deck and bridge tower was not up to the task. After work began, his firm's team of engineers found hundreds of cracks in welds. Caltrans responded by pressuring him to not be so rigorous, moving oversight of his firm from the agency's separate quality branch to Anziano's construction team, and then not renewing the company's contract.

  • Douglas Coe, a Caltrans civil engineer, questioned the mounting number of weld cracks. Anziano decided not to let Coe inspect the bridge decks anymore. He was abruptly removed from the Bay Bridge project.

  • Keith Devonport, a consulting engineer with extensive bridge construction experience, initiated ultrasonic testing of the welds that suggested the cracks could spread. Anziano curtailed use of the test, and Davenport was reassigned.

  • John Kinsey, an outside expert in nondestructive testing, supervised about 45 inspectors in China charged with making sure contract and code specifications were followed. Kinsey expressed concerns about weld cracks in girders under the road deck. He voiced concerns to Anziano and others, then was subsequently reassigned.

  • Mike Forner, a Caltrans engineer, went to Anziano with concerns about the welding at the China fabrication facility. Anziano's reaction was hostile, and then he stopped returning Forner's calls. Anziano also became upset after finding out that Forner had gone directly to managers at the committee overseeing bridge construction, but Anziano still wouldn't listen to his concerns.

  • Gary Purcell, Caltrans resident engineer who served as a liaison between the state agency and the contractor, was instructed to "just settle" contract disputes. After he complained to Anziano, he was reassigned.

  • Rick Morrow, a Caltrans bridge engineer, balked at signing an increasing number of expensive change orders he felt had no engineering justification. He was stunned when Anziano announced his reassignment at a routine meeting.

    This is no way to manage. Clearly, it's time for Anziano to go.

    Daniel Borenstein is a staff columnist and editorial writer. Reach him at 925-943-8248 or dborenstein@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/BorensteinDan.