Faulty Bay Bridge bolt on display at state transportation board hearing
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SAN FRANCISCO —
An investigation has found apparent conflicts of interest involving some of the experts asked to perform a technical review of the tower foundation for the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The Sacramento Bee reported that members of the new panel created by the Legislative Analyst's Office had current or recent financial and professional ties to the California Department of Transportation and Bay Bridge contractors.
The new panel was formed after a Bee investigation showed conflicts of interest involving members of a Caltrans review panel that judged the foundation sound last year.
Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the Transportation and Housing Committee, said he is "distressed" to learn about the ties between the new panelists, the agency and Bay Bridge contractors.
"There's no sense in paying 100 grand to have someone summarily approve everything Caltrans has done," he told the newspaper. "We need an independent review."
The experts are to assess whether Caltrans followed proper procedures.
Jessica Peters, who coordinated the selection of experts for the LAO, said the choices were closely examined for the conflicts, which were judged to be minor.
"There is a balance between having a conflict of interest and having the necessary experience," she said.
The Bee's review of records found four of the panelists had previously worked on Caltrans-funded projects, and that two had worked on Bay Bridge-related projects.
Three had worked previously for companies that performed work on the span.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.