Debra J. Saunders

One of a kind -- somehow I don't find that reassuring. University of California, Berkeley structural engineering professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl believes that the cracked bolts should not have happened, but he believes that the state can fix any problems. "In engineering," he said, "there are always solutions. It's a matter of time, money and quality."

Time is a problem, too. The task force had announced that the new span will open on Labor Day weekend; now maybe it won't. I wonder whether a new panel of experts should sign off before the bridge opens. But a new panel takes time, and Heminger points out that delaying the opening is not a neutral choice. The current eastern span isn't safe. That's why the state is building a new one.

It's time for now-Gov. Jerry Brown to take charge and stop acting as though the Bay Bridge were someone else's problem. He's not responsible for bolts purchased before he took office, nor can he be expected to know about metallurgical issues in bridge construction, but it is his job to make sure the new span doesn't open unless it is safe.

And if he's not willing to go out on that limb, voters have no reason to trust him with the state's $68 billion high-speed rail project. Brown touted the project as befitting a "land of dreams," but dreams can turn into nightmares if they lack the right bolts.

Debra J. Saunders

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