Debra J. Saunders

The De Wolk report named nine professionals who reported problems to higher-ups, for which they believed they were "gagged and banished."

Project head Tony Anziano told De Wolk that he transferred one by-the-book engineer because it's a mistake to go to war with a contractor. "It will cost you time; it will cost more money; and it will not resolve the problems that you are arguing about, ultimately." Given that the retrofit span already needs a retrofit, however, it would seem the whistle-blowers should have been rewarded, not marginalized.

There are other issues -- such as the Caltrans official who retired and then went to work for a quality assurance firm that won the Bay Bridge contract. His firm replaced a competitor who reported "hundreds of cracks" in deck welds, despite specifications that there be none.

The governor likes to portray himself as a tightwad who wants to get good value for taxpayer dollars. Yet Brown has been remarkably uncurious about the bad decisions that led to cost overruns. Regular commuters pay an extra $1,000 a year in higher tolls to pay for bridge work; Brown seems to be Zen with that. He just wishes the press would accept that post-construction glitches are part of nature.

The engineers are responsible? It so happens Neel Kashkari, Brown's Republican opponent in the November election, has two degrees in engineering. "The delays, the cost overruns, the fact that people were dissuaded or ignored," Kashkari told me, "all of those things speak to a culture of mismanagement."

Though the signature design made the 2.2-mile span more complicated than your average bridge, its glitch-rich rollout does not bode well for California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, which Brown hopes will seal his legacy as a visionary.

Kashkari calls high-speed rail the "crazy train" and wants to stop it: "Can you imagine the complexities, the cost overruns, the mismanagement if they actually try to build a 400-mile train?"

Yes, I can.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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