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Re: CalTrans Screw Up

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-----Original Message-----
From: Nigel Mends <nmends(--nospam--at)>
To: seaoc(--nospam--at) <seaoc(--nospam--at)>
Date: Thursday, November 20, 1997 4:25 PM
Subject: Re: CalTrans Screw Up

>Bill Allen wrote:
>> The issue I have the problem with is not of technical nature but of the
>> managerial decision making by CalTrans.
>> Either the welds are O.K. or not O.K. If they are O.K., then the contractors
>> should be paid. If the welds are not O.K., they should be fixed. If the
>> contractors did not do the welding according to the specifications as shown
>> on their bid docs, they should correct the welds at their own expense. If
>> Caltrans discovered that there were flaws in the specifications, then
>> CalTrans should issue a change order to direct the contractors to repair the
>> welds. 

>I do not
>know anything about the facts in this case and have no connection with Caltrans,
>but working in state gummint would allow me to make some guesses about factors
>that *might* play a part in the Caltrans decision. 
It's funny that, while you admit not knowing any of the facts about the case (as you
accuse me of), you seem to feel compelled to offer an opinion and criticize me for
offering mine.
  The first possibility that
>leaps to mind is that the cost of correcting the welds might be way out of
>proportion to the cost of the original work, like, for instance, that all of the
>bars that were exposed for welding are now embedded in concrete.  The welds
>might be inadequate, but might provide some of the strength they were supposed
I don't disagree that is a possible scenario. But, if CalTrans accepts the work, they
should pay for the work. 
>Another factor might be that the public continues to demand "less" government,
>which translates into a weakened ability to take on such a battle, due to
>reduced staffing and budgets.  If this factor applies to the case, your remarks
>would represent another of those interesting cases where the public insists on
>less government and lower taxes, yet expects the same level of service to
>continue.  Ain't gonna happen, folks.  Something's gotta give. 
It is exactly examples like this which lead the public to demand less from government.
This decision has created a "lose-lose" situation. The public may be faced with using 
structures that may be structurally unsound. If the structures are sound and the 
contractors are not paid, wouldn't this issue make it more difficult for contractors to 
do work with CalTrans in the future? 

>In summary, I would add to the previous comment that unless you know the FACTS
>of the particular case in question, perhaps you should give CALTRANS a break.
>Try assuming that CALTRANS' management is competent and that they are trying
>their best to do the best job they can for the taxpayers within the framework of
>constraints under which they must attempt to function.  Such an attitude would
>make a refreshing change for those of us who work in government.
The facts I know have been derived from a television news report. The information I
received could have been misleading (it wouldn't be the first time, on the part of the
news media). However, if the situation described in the news is true, then I do know some facts:
1.    CalTrans has determined that certain welding of rebar is unsatisfactory.
2.    CalTrans has decided not to correct this problem forcing the general public to
use these structures (approximately 100 bridges statewide).
3.    CalTrans is not going to pay approximately 70 contractors for this work because
they have deemed the work unsatisfactory although CalTrans is going to accept the
There are several examples in the private sector where these scenarios just would not
occur. Suppose you buy a guitar. After you get it home, you have decided (unilaterally) that the guitar does not sound as good as you first believed or as good
as the salesman or specifications said it would. You decide not to pay for the guitar,
but decide to keep it anyway. Do you think this would work? How about when you
buy a car or drapery for your home? BTW, if you think these examples are somehow
different than the welded rebar example, consider if you will a structural engineer consultant who prepares a set of plans for a client who doesn't pay the consultant but
uses the plans anyway. Is that right?
While I understand your point of view, I still feel CalTrans has made a poor decision.
Bill Allen