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Re: CalTrans Bridge Welds

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I'd like to toss out some of the "facts" I am aware of regarding this
Caltrans welding issue. This saga/fiasco actually began in late 1995 when
flawed welds were detected at the seismic retrofit of the I-8/I-805
interchange in San Diego's Mission Valley (near Jack Murphy - Qualcomm
Stadium).

>From "The Struggle To Retrofit" - San Diego Union Tribune 15/May/96
Project retrofitting chronology:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
--
December 1994 -- Work begins on the $44.3 million retrofitting of the
Interstate 805-Interstate 8 bridges in Mission Valley.

May 1995 -- Welding starts on thousands of steel bands used to strengthen
the concrete columns.

Oct. 26, 1995 -- Caltrans engineer Stephen Matthew-John raises suspicions to
his superiors that many welds appear to be defective.

November 1995 -- Caltrans warns a contractor, Steve P. Rados Inc., about
welding flaws. The work continues.

January 1996 -- A Caltrans inspector from Sacramento arrives at the Mission
Valley job site and declares the defective welding is the result of shoddy
workmanship performed by a number of uncertified welders. Caltrans sends a
letter to the contractor rejecting the welding work.

February 1996 -- The prime contractor, Rados, tells Caltrans that the agency
failed to perform its inspection responsibilities.

March 1996 -- Caltrans and the contractor reinspect the welds while the FBI
begins an investigation into possible fraud.

April 1996 -- Early testing shows that up to 50 percent of the welds are
defective.

May 1996 -- Caltrans officials order a review of welds on hundreds of
projects throughout the state.
-----------------------------------------------

To my knowledge there have not been a significant number of defective welds
found as a result of the review of these projects. If I am mistaken - would
appreciate news references where I can read up on this.

Why did it take so many months for the Caltrans to stop work on the project
especially after detecting flawed welds?  I think the State was negligent in
its responsibility to control the performance of its contractor in the
execution of his work.

Why did the contractor continue to work after being notified of welding
problems? I know time=money but, while it's one thing to continue on with
possibly questionable welding procedures it's another to further proceed
with covering up that work with concrete before the welding has be accepted.
I think the Contractor proceeded at his own risk upon notification by the
State.

Why did it take five months for the State welding inspector to get to the
jobsite? The inspection procedure for these projects is for the General
Contractor to contract his own welding inspection and submit test reports,
X-rays, radiographs and such to the State as quality assurance to certify
that the work performed conformed to the specifications. There was (and may
still be) only one State welding inspector for all of the welding work
projects in California. Is that ludicrous or what? But I'm not surprised.
State inspection services have been on the slippery slope for the past three
years or so. As materials inspectors, laboratory technicians, and field
inspectors retire or quit, they are not being replaced. As a result the few
remaining individuals acquire increased workload .... and have been directed
not to work overtime! BTW, these policies are being directed by our
wonderful governor.

For more information on this particular project, the news archives of the
San Diego Union Tribune http://www.uniontribune.com/  has several articles
in addition to the one I referenced above. The URL was a monstrous search
string for the words "Caltrans+Bridge+Welds" so I can't/wont reference the
exact pages where they can be found.

Thanks for the soapbox,

Brent Koch, P.E.