One Small Step Forward

OMG, OMG, OMG! We’re starting to see signs that the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch is finally moving into Act Two!

The transition is just barely getting started, but still… Get this: we’re seeing finger-pointing and disclaimers of responsibility as part of the revelation of the latest problem! Seems like Caltrans and its contractors are getting just as sick of Act One as we are.

The latest problem is actually a new facet of one we already knew about. Remember those improperly-grouted rods that had been soaking in rainwater for years? The ones that were showing some signs of cracks? The ones that can’t be replaced, and are responsible for the stability of the bridge tower? Yeah, those rods.

The water was pumped out, but it came back. And no, our drought hasn’t broken. It’s not rain. Wait, it gets better: tests of the new water show a chloride level much higher than the earlier water. Chloride is a significant cause of corrosion, and the levels found in the water are high enough that independent experts are questioning the long-term viability of the rods.

So where’s the water coming from now?

Caltrans blames the bridge’s primary contractor, American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises, saying both that they put water into the rods’ sleeves after they had been pumped out and that “unexpected and unauthorized” water was tricking in, presumably through those same failed groutings.

For their part–and this is where we’re seeing the finger-pointing–American Bridge/Fluor claims that there are cracks in the concrete of the tower’s foundation. Since the foundation was built by Kiewit, another contractor, American Bridge/Fluor’s argument is that they’re not responsible for the water, or the potential failure of the rods.

The level of chloride in the water strongly suggests seawater as the source. Not that it would let American Bridge/Fluor off the hook for the original grout problem, but in classic finger-pointing mode, that’s beside the point.

As of Jaxon’s article in yesterday’s Chron, Kiewit apparently hadn’t weighed in with their own accusation. Stay tuned. My guess: they’ll point their own finger at the concrete supplier. 50/50 odds whether the word “thug” will figure in the discussion.

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