Chinese Company Provided Wrong Bolts for California Bridge

A Chinese company supplied hundreds of thousands of bolts of the wrong size for the seismic retrofitting of a San Francisco Bay Area bridge, according to a California Senate report.

The 250,000 incorrectly sized bolts for the Carquinez Bridge to Vallejo were rejected and remade, but they the led to “a near disaster,” according to the report.

Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said the bolts were never used on the span. “We made sure that the correct bolts were installed,” he said.

The report said the bolts came from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. in China.

However, Shen Xiaying, a representative from state-owned Shanghai Zhenhua, said that while the company has provided steel structures for the deck and towers in the project, it does not make bolts at all. She said they were procured by the general contractor.

The report, released Wednesday, focuses on construction of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, raising questions about the quality of workmanship used to build the $6.3 billion span. The problems with the Carquinez Bridge are mentioned in a footnote that says they led the California Department of Transportation to have quality-assurance specialists perform an audit of Shanghai Zhenhua before allowing the company to take on deck and tower work for the new Bay Bridge.

Matt Rocco, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said he wanted to reiterate that the bridges are safe.

James Merrill, an engineer who headed the audit, said Caltrans was taking a great risk in letting Shanghai Zhenhua do the work, according to the report.

Merrill’s staff subsequently found hundreds of cracks in bridge welds done by the company, the report says.

Caltrans has said that the weld cracks in question were repairable and have been mostly fixed and that the bridge is safe.

Shen, the company representative, said she had no information on the cracks.