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?