More controversy swirls around Bay Bridge bolts

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- In the last week, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Chairman of the Bay Bridge Oversight Committee Steve Heminger described ongoing problems with the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge as "the project from hell."

On Monday, he said newly discovered issues are a game changer. He's been on this project since the very beginning of construction 13 years ago.

"I am frustrated and I think a lot of toll payers are frustrated with this steady, steady drip of stories," said Heminger.

Some news accounts have it that one of 424 anchor bolts holding the Bay Bridge signature tower to the bay floor failed.

"We don't have any failures in the foundation of the tower. We have one rod that didn't perform in a test that we conducted," said Heminger.

By next week, that rod will have been removed and the cause of the problem identified.

There are also concerns that saltwater, corrosive to unprotected high-strength steel rods, may be leaking into the tower.

"The east span is not like the Wicked Witch of the West. She doesn't melt on contact with water," explained Heminger.

In fact, Heminger said many bridges get water into their foundations.

"We've done salt water testing of these rods though and we do think they're able to withstand that but it's not an ideal condition," said Heminger.

Repairs plans are already under way.

"We're gonna fix them now so that we have the full measure of redundancy that we wanted when the earthquake happens," said Heminger.

Though none of the problems are fatal to the bridge and can be fixed the oversight chairman feels it was short changed by Caltrans and its contractors.

"To me, it just reflects the fact that Caltrans really didn't sweat the details. That job was not done well enough and we didn't get the full value of that money. That's Caltrans' job and we've paid them $1.3 billion and counting to do that job," said Heminger.

The questions remains: who will foot this new $4 million bill?

"It's not going be all on the toll payers if I have anything to say about it," he said.

When these issues are resolved, Heminger expects the $6.4 billion bridge will do what it was designed to do: survive the largest expected earthquake in 1,500 years. After the quake, it go back into service in just day or two.

The entire 12-minute interview with Heminger can be watched here.