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Steel Executive Dismisses 'Success' of San Francisco Bay Bridge

July 15, 2011

American Metal Market www.amm.com (letter to the editor)

To the Editor:

A July 12 story, "Chinese firm delivers San Francisco Bay Bridge span," on the delivery from China of a replacement portion for the east span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge completely fails to capture the true story surrounding this debacle. The story quotes the president of state-owned Shanghai Zhenua Heavy Industries Co., who touts the "success" of the project.

Success? Really? Why is there no mention of welding problems and related quality concerns that caused several months of costly delays? And how many more millions of dollars have been wasted each time sections of the replacement span had to be transported 6,500 miles to the project? Finally, how many more millions of dollars were tacked onto the cost to California taxpayers by the fact that prior to this job Shanghai Zhenua Heavy Industries made port cranes and had no bridge building experience, requiring the hiring of 250 consultants by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and private industry to ensure the section would meet safety standards?

At a time when real U.S. unemployment is 15.8 percent and domestic steelmakers and fabricators offer top-quality products and expertise, Caltrans chose to outsource the project and high-value jobs to China. Yet the story merely notes that the award of the contract to a Chinese fabricator "sparked a controversy." Why weren’t domestic fabricators who bid on the project asked for their comment?

More thorough and balanced reporting would have cast the story’s lone, self-serving quote regarding the so-called "success" of this project in quite a different light.

- Thomas J. Gibson, American Iron and Steel Institute

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