Sen. Cannella Sends Letter to Caltrans Regarding Bridge Inspection Concerns

Monday, November 21, 2011

In advance of tomorrow’s Senate hearing about California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) inspection issues, State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), a licensed civil engineer, today sent the following letter to Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty requesting further information regarding revelations of data falsification pertaining to the Bay Bridge:

November 21, 2011

Mr. Malcolm Dougherty
Acting Director
California Department of Transportation
Post Office Box 942873
Sacramento, CA 94273-0001

Dear Mr. Dougherty:

I am deeply concerned by recent news reports regarding falsified data that has now called into question the process by which the strength and safety of the Bay Bridge and other structures were evaluated. As you know, the structural capabilities of these key pieces of infrastructure is critical to the public’s safety and our economy; therefore, I am writing to request further information from Caltrans regarding this situation.

As a licensed civil engineer, I am especially disappointed that the employees entrusted with designing, testing and inspecting our infrastructure would risk the public’s safety by ignoring their duties and falsifying data. I am even more concerned that Caltrans senior management did not take immediate action to terminate the employee and did not disclose this information right away. A private engineering firm found to have falsified data would be held liable for significant damages and would be responsible for fully rectifying the situation – even to the degree of replacing structures, if necessary.

California taxpayers are footing the bill for this infrastructure, and they rightfully expect the department to be transparent and accountable in its actions. For these reasons, I am writing to request further information regarding the following issues:

  • It appears that Caltrans only acted on this issue after a whistleblower called it to the attention of The Sacramento Bee. Why did Caltrans wait to take action to address the falsified data when it was identified?
  • Has Caltrans asked outside structure experts to determine the adequacy of the Bay Bridge piles? Does Caltrans plan to pursue modifications to the bridge to guarantee the strength originally anticipated?
  • The Bureau of State Audits (BSA) and the Legislative Analyst’s Office have both issued reports criticizing Caltrans’ personnel management and capital projects procedures. BSA went so far as to suggest that a major failure of Caltrans inspected infrastructure was likely to happen unless stronger internal controls were put in place. Since these reports, what steps have been taken to address the shortcomings outlined?

I’m concerned that the egregious lack of oversight and accountability shown in this situation puts Californians at risk. Taxpayers deserve answers to these questions and – even more importantly – they deserve to know that the infrastructure they pay for and travel on every day is safe and structurally sound.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Anthony Cannella
Senator, 12th District

cc:
The Honorable Mark DeSaulnier, Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chair
The Honorable Ted Gaines, Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Vice Chair
The Honorable Bonnie Lowenthal, Assembly Transportation Committee Chair
The Honorable Kevin Jeffries, Assembly Transportation Committee Vice Chair