Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he believes the public still has confidence in the safety of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge despite concerns about construction of the $6.4 billion span that is scheduled to open later this year.
State transportation officials recently disclosed that nearly three dozen seismic safety bolts on the eastern span of the bridge had broken. But Brown says people generally understand there will be construction problems on major infrastructure projects.
"Don't know if it's a setback. I mean, look, sh&# happens. That's all I can say,'' Brown said, using a vulgar term.
Thirty-two of 96 bolts manufactured in 2008 broke earlier this year. But Toll Bridge Program Manager Tony Anziano told The Contra Costa Times that other bolts made in 2010 have shown no sign of cracking, though tests on the remaining bolts are continuing.
"There are very professional engineers that are looking at this thing and when they're ready to give us their report I think the public will be satisfied,'' Brown told reporters after attending a memorial ceremony for California Highway Patrol officers killed in the line of duty.
The bolts, or rods, each 17- to 24-feet long, connect the bridge deck to so-called shear keys, which are large shock absorbers that control movement during an earthquake.
The Democratic governor said it's too soon to know if the bridge will open as scheduled on Labor Day.
"I can't tell you when. I don't want to say anything because we want to get the reports back. When we do, I'll comment,'' Brown said.
Transportation officials are scheduled to make public on Wednesday their plan to fix the broken rods, and to say if the span still can open on time. California Department of Transportation spokesman Will Shuck said he does not believe officials will be able to say Wednesday whether the Labor Day opening target is still realistic.
"Both the safety and the solution come first, then the schedule,'' Shuck said. The material used in the bolts is an alloy that a nationwide group of transportation officials banned for use on bridges because the bolts can crack, the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, though state officials said they used the proper standards. Transportation officials have said repeatedly that the Bay Bridge is safe.
But problems with the bolts are just the latest issue to put transportation officials on the defensive.
They have said recent disclosures by The Sacramento Bee of cracks in some long welds on the bridge supports are not a major concern. The Bee also recently reported apparent conflicts of interest by some of the experts asked by the state Legislature to perform a technical review of the bridge foundation.
The same newspaper found conflicts by members of a California Department of Transportation review panel that judged the foundation sound last year.
The department also was forced to cancel a $10 million public relations project after the Bee raised questions.
Last year, a Caltrans engineering team found doctored data and other suspicious information that raised questions about the safety testing of bridges including the new eastern span. The engineers were examining the work of a technician who was blamed for falsifying tests on other projects, but found problems that went beyond that former employee and called into question testing of the new Bay Bridge among other projects.