It's been a decade since a new section of the Carquinez Bridge opened to traffic, but today the span is getting dragged into controversy over the quality of workmanship on the Bay Bridge.
That's because a California Senate report revealed the company hired to build San Francisco-Bay Bridge portions also supplied bolts of the wrong size while crews were building the Carquinez Bridge in 2001.
Before the Bay Bridge's opening on Labor Day of last year, Caltrans took considerable heat for, among other things, allowing a number of giant steel bolts to be installed which later snapped after they were tightened.
The highly critical Senate white paper, "The San Fracisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: Basic Reforms for the Future," notes the bolts on the Bay Bridge were allowed to be installed despite a lack of quality-assurance testing.
The bolt situation on the Carquinez Bridge is different, but could have been potentially worse than the outcome, the report notes.
Caltrans avoided "near disaster" when the agency discovered at the Carquinez Bridge construction site that 250,000 critical bolts had been made to the "wrong size and they all had to be rejected and remade," according to the report written by an independent investigator.
Further, "(t)his story was never revealed to the public," according to the report prepared for the California State Senate Transportation & Housing Committee .
Specifically, the report says the wrongly sized bolts were made by the Chinese company of Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co., also known as ZPMC, which was hired to retrofit the span linking Vallejo to Contra Costa County.
After hiring the same firm for the Bay Bridge, Caltrans implemented a safety protocol for the Bay Bridge following this incident on the Carquinez Bridge, the report notes.
The $6.4 billion Bay Bridge opened Labor Day weekend about 10 years behind schedule and far above original cost estimates.
By contrast, the Carquinez Bridge new span cost $114.2 million.
Caltrans Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said whether the bolt issue caused a cost overrun on the Vallejo span project is unclear, but is being examined.
Gordon stressed that the wrong bolts were not used on the Carquinez Bridge, and the ones in place are of the right size and have the right threads, alignment and other properties.
"This was resolved 13 years ago," Gordon added. "There's been no problem on the Carquinez Bridge."
The California Senate report was released in advance of the Senate committee examining ways to reform Caltrans to avoid cost overruns and other problems.
The paper slams the agency for dismissing concerns from quality-assurance experts regarding bolts and cracks during the Bay Bridge construction, and also going to great lengths to avoid disclosing information and problems to the public.
Sam Mahood, spokesman for Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said the committee will continue its investigation into the Bay Bridge and come up with recommendations for improvements.
Mahood said it was not immediately clear whether the committee members would be taking a further look at the bolt issue on the Carquinez Bridge.
The next hearing on the report and various reform measures to improve Caltrans is on Feb. 11.
Mahood said the Bay Bridge construction project illustrates the need for legislation and requirements for more transparency in transportation projects.