OK, now this is the way it’s supposed to work. Well, sort of, anyway.

As we’ve discussed before, the way QA is supposed to work, somebody runs a test. If the test fails, that gets reported up the chain so that responsible parties can decide when and how to fix the problem. The fix gets tested, (hopefully) approved, and everyone is happy.

Amazingly enough, that almost happened with some aspects of the Bay Bridge construction!

Remember back in May, we heard that expansion joints on the new east span’s bike path had been incorrectly welded, so that they didn’t actually expand? At that time, I said “Seriously, though, the bike path was installed in 2008, yet the improper welds weren’t discovered until an inspection was done in 2012. Where the heck was the QA? Didn’t anyone check the installation at the time it was done?” It turns out that an inspection was done in 2008. The improper welds weren’t discovered at that time because other problems concealed them.

Jaxon reported in today’s Chron that one Greg Roth (hey, we’ve got an actual name!) inspected the bike path in 2008 and reported problems with the fence along the side of the path. Specifically, emergency access gates didn’t open, grills and grates didn’t fit, and flawed parts were used to anchor the path to the bridge.

After reviewing the problems, “Caltrans” (darn, we’re back to that collective responsibility thing again) determined that the problems were the result of a design flaw. The flawed design was corrected and fixes were installed in 2011. The process was followed, the problem was resolved, and everyone was happy, right? Unfortunately not.

In the course of installing the fixes, crews discovered that metal pieces intended to keep the fence vertical were too thin. These “shims” had a tendency to slide out of place, causing the fence to sag. So the crews replaced the shims, in the course of which they discovered that the bolts holding down the railing had been welded too tightly and had broken. Right: contrary to the earlier report, the expansion joint problem was not found in a planned inspection, but by repair crews working on a related problem.

Still, the process was followed. This certainly isn’t the first time that fixing one problem has revealed additional problems, and it won’t be the last. The problems are fixed (or getting there: there are still hundreds of bolts yet to be inspected). I’m trying to regard it as a good sign.

But, I do worry when I see Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck saying that Caltrans will be more careful in the future. Jaxon quotes him as saying that the remaining portion of the bike path “‘will be constructed in accordance with design enhancements’ that Caltrans has made.” That’s very reassuring, Will. Who reviewed and signed off on the enhancements? Who is going to inspect the work?

Trolling for Bolts

Hurray, Jaxon is back on the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch beat! He’s got an article in today’s Chron reporting on the progress of Caltrans’ accelerated aging tests on the galvanized steel bolts. The tests will be a major factor in deciding whether to replace the bolts or leave them in place–at least those that can be replaced.

The tests are, it seems, going well, and if the results stand up, Caltrans will leave some 700 bolts in place.

Of course, not everyone agrees that Caltrans’ tests are appropriate. Jaxon quotes a pair of outside experts who believe that the results of short-term accelerated tests are only loosely related to real-world outcomes.

Meanwhile, preparations continue for the bridge’s grand opening at 5 am Tuesday the 3rd. There’s a full-page ad in the paper warning of the old bridge’s closure at 8 pm this Wednesday. Most amusingly, the majority of the ad is an artist’s rendering of the new bridge showing cars and trucks widely spaced as they cross. We’re not going to see traffic moving that smoothly until the inevitable zombie apocalypse depopulates the Bay Area.

Astoundingly, Jaxon missed the biggest part of the Bay Bridge story. Over the weekend, Matier and Ross alerted the public to the uncertain fate of the Bay Bridge Troll.

The Bay Bridge has a troll? Yup. When I heard that, I pictured something like the troll that lurks under Seattle’s Fremont Bridge. That troll is large enough to have caught an actual VW. The Bay Bridge’s troll is tiny by comparison, standing a mere 18 inches tall. It’s welded to the old bridge below the roadbed where it’s only visible from boats.

The bridge’s management team just released “For Whom the Troll Dwells“, their report on the troll and their recommendations for its fate. The team suggests that the current troll be honorably retired when the old bridge is torn down; they suggest that he and a section of the beam to which he is welded should be relocated to a “safe and shaded spot” near the bridge. They also suggest that the “Troll Bridge Program Oversight Committee” adopt a policy of “benign noninterference” to any attempts to install a new troll on the new bridge, provided that it goes into an appropriately covered and shaded area where the troll will be safe from the rays of the sun (long known to be hazardous to trolls).

Frankly, I find the committee’s proposal to be the single most sensible statement anybody associated with the new Bay Bridge has made, though it does miss one important point. The report notes that history recounts many occasions on which “trolls were hired to speed along special construction projects,” but stops short of recommending that Caltrans engage trollish assistance on future bridge projects. Had such a policy been in place, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken twelve years to build–and Caltrans might have listened to trollish recommendations to not use galvanized steel!

Oh, Boy!

Special bonus post and poll!

The Federal Highway Administration has given the OK to proceed with the “shim” solution and open the bridge to the public after the Labor Day holiday. The bridge oversight committee met this morning in Oakland and decided to proceed.

Barring any further problems surfacing, the bridge will open–probably without most of the previously-planned celebrations–on September 3.

Please consider the history of the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch (click the “BBBB” link at the bottom of this post for our earlier discussions of the topic) and then take the poll below. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, please take the poll anyway. I value the semi-independent viewpoint you’ll bring.

Bits and Pieces

I’m going to continue Friday’s “short notes” theme with some updates on continuing issues.

Leading off: BART workers are not on strike. No, there isn’t a settlement. Management’s lead negotiator left the table about 8:15 Sunday night, and everyone else knocked off about 15 minutes later. Management asked Governor Brown to impose a 60 day “cooling off period” to block a strike. Instead, he blocked a strike for a week and appointed a three-person panel to “investigate” the talks. During the week-long investigation, both sides will have to present their offers and reasons for supporting or opposing the cooling off period to the board. More details in a story at SFGate. So I was right that there would not be a deal by today, but wrong that there would actually be a strike. I also predicted that a deal would be reached late Wednesday with service resuming on Friday. The governor has charged negotiators to continue meeting while the board investigation continues, so it’s still possible that a settlement could be reached Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Regardless of one’s feelings about labor actions, government intervention, and who’s in the right in this case, it was clearly a good thing the governor stepped in: a truck fire on the freeway Monday morning closed two lanes for hours. Traffic backed up across the bridge and for miles up the freeway. If there had been a BART strike, and all those additional drivers were on the road, the traffic jam probably wouldn’t have cleared up until Labor Day.

Batting second: I was a bit off the mark in my prediction that we would start seeing third-party apps supporting Chromecast last week. A quick check of Google Play shows exactly one app touting Chromecast support. That’s “RemoteCast and it’s in beta. As best I can tell, it’s also not an actual media player, it’s a remote control for whatever content you’re already streaming to your Chromecast. So technically I was right, but from a practical standpoint I was a bit optimistic.

Why was I wrong? The interest is definitely there: I’ve seen several apps listing Chromecast support as “coming soon” and several others whose developers are promising support if they can get their hands on a device. However, Google is deliberately slowing things down. They’re describing the current SDK as a “preview”; apps built with it will, they say, only work with Chromecast devices that have been registered with Google for development and testing. Until they release the final SDK, don’t expect a whole lot of apps available for download.

In the third spot: The leftover sauerkraut has been used up. The “Lemon Chicken Baked on a Bed of Sauerkraut” recipe actually called for the entire remainder of our bottle. It turned out reasonably well, but needs some tinkering. The sauerkraut didn’t add much flavor to the chicken, though the chicken added a fair amount to the sauerkraut. That could probably be fixed by layering the chicken between two layers of ‘kraut instead of setting it on top of a single layer. More spice is a must. If we try it again, we’ll probably up the lemon juice a bit, definitely use more rosemary, and crank up the pepper significantly. Probably worth adding some thyme as well. Still, we enjoyed it enough that we would consider trying it again.

We usually use leftover cooking liquid as the basis for soups and stews, but decided against it this time, largely because it seemed like most of its flavor was coming from the dissolved chicken fat. So we put it out for the four-legged neighbors, who apparently enjoyed it immensely, as the bowl was darn near polished. We suspect it went mostly to the raccoons, which is fine: that means more of the cat food went to the cats.

Batting cleanup: It’s been very quiet on the Bay Bridge front lately. The only information I’ve seen is a note from Matier and Ross about the “shim” proposal and the swiftly decreasing likelihood of the bridge opening Labor Day weekend. They point out that because Caltrans is asking both their seismic review panel and the Federal Highway Administration for their opinions of the proposal, the soonest they could get the go-ahead would be mid-August. Caltrans would then need to give a couple of weeks’ notice that the bridge would be closed for four days to switch the lanes from the old bridge to the new. That would be cutting it close. Adding to the pressure against a Labor Day weekend opening is the fact that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission–the master overseer of the bridge project–is on summer vacation until after Labor Day. So all-in-all the prospects for a quick-fix-assisted opening seem dim.

Random thought: does it seem suspicious to you all that the BART fiasco has completely driven the Bolt Botch out of the news? Granted that BART contract negotiations are always messy, but this time around it seems like both sides have gone out of their way to foul things up. Anyone think Caltrans might have been “encouraging” negotiators’ missteps to draw the public’s attention elsewhere while they try to figure out where to pin the donkey’s tail of blame? Not saying they have, but it does have a bit of a “tin foil beanie” feel about it.