Here We Go Again

A quick reminder: the MLB season ends Sunday* and the playoffs start Tuesday evening with the NL Wild Card game. In keeping with this blog’s usual public service orientation, Tuesday morning’s post will be our annual guide for “Who To Root For If You Don’t Have a Team In the Playoffs.”

* Monday’s scheduled make-up game between the Marlins and Pirates has been canceled, presumably because it has absolutely no impact on the playoffs.


That said, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Not the one about a woman being put on trial in the Senate over a man’s alleged inability to behave like a moral individual. Though that is getting to be a rather tired story, and I really wish Congress’ slush pile reader would try something different.

No, I’m talking about the one where a Bay Area multi-billion dollar transit project goes wildly over budget, and only to have serious construction problems uncovered.

Long-time readers will remember my fascination with the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch. In large part, my interest was due to the obvious QA failures and the (still!) unanswered questions about what testing was done and how the reports were handled.

And now we’ve got a new serial to watch. The brand new Transbay Transit Center opened just last month after $2.2 billion in over (if memory serves) a decade of construction. Mere weeks after it opened, decomposed granite paths in the park on the center’s roof underwent further decomposition, crumbling and developing potholes. But that was just a warm-up for this week’s troubles: on Tuesday, the center was closed indefinitely after workers found a large crack in a major support beam. The beam supports the bus deck and the park where they cross Fremont Street, so the street was also closed as a further precaution.

On Wednesday, inspectors found a second cracked beam adjacent to the first.

The cause of the cracking hasn’t been determined yet. Despite a lawsuit between the company that handled the steel work and the primary contractors over construction documentation, it doesn’t seem like there was a QA failure this time around. The Chron says they passed inspection after installation and again when the beams were fireproofed two years ago.

Speculation about the cause of the cracking is all over the map: manufacturing defects, installation errors, and design flaws are all getting consideration. Despite the uncertainty, temporary repairs are in progress, aimed at reopening Fremont Street by the end of next week. Presumably–hopefully!–permanent repairs won’t start until the root cause has been determined.

The situation is rife with irony.

Not only was the problem found during Transit Week, San Francisco’s official celebration of public transportation, but the official name of the facility is “Salesforce Transit Center”–and Salesforce is current holding their huge, annual “Dreamforce” convention a couple of blocks away.

But wait, there’s more.

Traffic coming into downtown San Francisco on I-80 across the Bay Bridge exits the freeway on–you guessed it–Fremont Street.

QA implications or no, I’ll be following the story as more information comes out.

4 thoughts on “Here We Go Again

  1. Not to QA your memory (okay, I QA’ed your memory)… Wikipedia: “…voters approved funds for the new Transbay Transit Center in 1999. Construction on the first phase, the aboveground bus terminal, began in 2010.”

    Maybe I should transfer my QA skills over to the construction sector. I’m getting really tired of tech.

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    • Ah, thank you. So make that “eighteen years of design and construction”. I’m not sure that’s any better for San Francisco’s reputation as “The City That Knows How”. Though, to be fair, SF isn’t the sole stakeholder.

      Certainly a change in sector would give you access to whole new families of bugs. Including, I suspect, the actual six-legged kind.

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  2. …Aaaand, lest we forget: right across the street is a sixty story building (rightly dubbed “The Leaning Tower of San Francisco”), that is slowly sinking into the muck into which its pilings were, ineffectively as it turns out, sunk.
    What we, chiefly, seem to “know how” to do, these days, is enrich legal firms, who are currently engaged in a feeding frenzy at the taxpayer’s expense.
    For some reason, this all connects in my mind with the seemingly endless attempts to change the rules of Baseball, ostensibly to “speed up the game”. Is it any wonder that the more thoughtful among us (among whom I, immodestly, place myself) resist this trend?
    We’ve got one damned thing that still works, almost as well as it ever did- which is pretty damned well, and they want to “speed it up”? Sure, that’s a great idea.

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    • I was trying to avoid bringing the Tipping Tower of Terror into the discussion, since it’s not a publicly-funded construction. But, yes, there is some relevance, given their [lawyers’] claim that Transbay Terminal construction is responsible for the tip.

      Whether they’re right or wrong–and I’m definitely closer to your thinking than baseball’s exec’s–I think it’s unfair to summarize their thinking as “wanting to speed up the game”. I think it’s more accurate to say they want to reduce the time between the bits that are attractive to first-time and casual spectators. Length of game is a side-effect, not a goal.

      Framing the discussion that way makes it easier to evaluate proposals rationally. IMNSHO, of course.

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