Our View: Bay Bridge delay was right decision

July 9, 2013 

US NEWS TRADE-BUYAMERICA 3 SA

For Rep. John Garamendi, the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to open in September is a symbol of failed trade policy: It used steel imported from China, producing jobs overseas. He wants Congress to pass more "Buy America" requirements, insisting public works projects use U.S.-made materials to create jobs, even if foreign firms offer lower bids. (Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

RANDY PENCH — MCT

Let's just say we're relieved that an oversight committee for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge decided to delay the opening of the bridge's new span by several months.

It was the right call.

The bridge originally had been scheduled to open on Labor Day. Now, bridge officials are saying a decision on when the bridge will be opened will be made in December.

The extra time will give engineers a chance to retrofit 32 giant bolts that support the bridge's seismic safety equipment. The bolts cracked when tightened in March. It was up to newspapers — including The Sacramento Bee — to let the public know of the defects.

The delay is hardly a perfect solution. It means the 270,000 motorists who traverse the bridge each day must continue to rely on an old span of the Bay Bridge that is vulnerable to earthquakes. Many of those motorists come from the Modesto area.

Still, it's better than rushing ahead. Before the new span opens, the public must have full confidence that engineers have addressed any and all safety concerns.

Unfortunately, revelations about shoddy Caltrans inspections will make that challenging. The California Department of Transportation consistently has tried to cover up problems rather than address them.

The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee has given itself time to make certain the bolts and other aspects of the $6.4 billion span are safe.

If the committee and other construction officials truly want us to believe the bridge is being made fully and completely safe, a good first step would be identifying what went wrong in the inspection process and holding those responsible accountable.

It's not enough to say, "we'll fix it." The only way we'll be certain that those responsible will have nothing to do with the bridge is to make certain that they'll have nothing more to do with it.

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