Why Government Shouldn’t Build Things (Part 3)

I had earlier posted about the SNAFUed boondoggle also known as the Eastern span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge (here and here), but the bad news just keeps rolling in.

Yesterday it was revealed that the tower supporting the entire self-anchored suspension bridge rests on bolts that are likely to fail, causing the tower to move. A “veteran seismic engineer” has helpfully pointed out:

That’s something you don’t want.

It seems that Caltrans, the agency building the $6.4+ billion bridge, after guessing that engineers could figure out how to build its arty design safely, then guessed that bolts banned from use in bridges would be OK if they were manufactured under a slightly different process.

Problem is, instructions for the altered manufacturing process failed to get passed along to the Alabaman manufacturer.

Thus the banned bolts arrived, got embedded in concrete on top of pilings in the Bay, and the 525 foot tower was lowered on top of them. Where they can now not be inspected.

Throughout, Caltrans continues to insists its quality control has been “pretty rigorous.”

The California State Senate suggested an investigation by a “truly independent third-party,” such as “a panel of University of California professors or an independent, nonprofit think tank,” but the Feds know better, and now the Federal Highway Administration is going to come in and investigate.

Asked about the prospect of $6.4 billion not being enough to deliver a bridge that can actually be used, Jerry Brown, governor of our most-taxed state (and in his previous post as mayor of Oakland an early proponent of form over function in advocating for the designer bridge), succinctly philosophised: “s— happens.”

Guess our taxes won’t be headed down anytime soon.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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