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Bay Bridge Project Gets Chinese Assist

Monday, July 18, 2011

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The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, an American icon, will be sporting a “Made in China” sticker—figuratively speaking, at least.

China’s biggest heavy machinery maker has put the final touches on sections of the new East Span of the Bay Bridge— the biggest project so far for state-run Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, a unit of China Communications Construction Co.

 Oakland Bay Bridge construction circa 1933


Construction on the bridge began in 1933.

California outsourced manufacturing of the main parts of the bridge to Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries to save $400 million on labor and materials.

‘Who Built It?’

The company won the project in 2006 with a $250 million bid. Company officials say they will profit little on the project but believe the payoff will come in helping to establish China as a world-class construction safety and quality concern.

“The U.S. is the world’s most advanced country, and the San Francisco Bay Bridge will be a bridge of the highest quality,” said Zhenhua’s chief executive, Zhou Jichang.

“We believe this bridge is very important. When people see it, they will ask, ‘who built it?’ “This will really raise our brand image.”

Steel Girders and Tower

Zhenhua is fabricating the steel girders and tower for the new $7.2 billion East Span of the bridge, which is undergoing a seismic retrofit to improve its earthquake resistance after a 250-ton section collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The last four steel segments for the new suspension bridge are a week into their 22-day Pacific Ocean journey from Shanghai to San Francisco, where the 5,300 tons of modules will be joined with 24 other sections—each half the size of a football field—already in place, Bloomberg News reports.

The new structure will be the world’s longest single-tower, self-anchored suspension bridge, stretching 2,047 feet (624 meters). The span will have a single, 525-foot tower, anchored to bedrock and supported by a single, enormous steel-wire cable that threads through the suspension bridge. The span will include two parallel five-lane roadways and a 1.2-mile viaduct.

 Single Self-Anchored Suspension span tower
The new span’s single Self-Anchored Suspension span tower will be 525 feet tall. Workers placed the world’s largest cable saddle atop the tower in May.

The project will ultimately reinforce and rebuild each section of the bridge, which opened in 1936. The rebuilt span is due to open in 2013, when the current span will be demolished.

“We wanted something strong and secure, but we also wanted something iconic,” said Bart Ney, a transportation department spokesman.

‘Pretty Impressive’

“They’ve produced a pretty impressive bridge for us,” Tony Anziano, a program manager at the California Department of Transportation, told the New York Times recently while touring the 1.2-square-mile manufacturing site that the Chinese company created to do the bridge work. “Four years ago, there were just steel plates here and lots of orange groves.”

Bloomberg says the company completed the work five months ahead of schedule, employing up to 2,500 workers at peak times, including 1,000 welders, who gained U.S. qualifications specifically for the work, according to the company’s chairman.

Another Chinese company, Shanghai Pujiang Cable Co., made the mile-long main cable for the bridge, Zhou said.

US Assembly

The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans.

American steelworker unions have disparaged the Bay Bridge contract by accusing the state of California of sending good jobs overseas and settling for what they deride as poor-quality Chinese steel, the New York Times notes. Industry groups in the United States and other countries have raised questions about the safety and quality of Chinese workmanship on such projects.

Nevertheless, Chinese construction and engineering are assuming a greater presence in the United States.

In New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River, and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium, the Times reports. As with the Bay Bridge, American union labor would carry out most of the work done on U.S. soil.

“Chinese engineering companies’ expertise has improved rapidly, thanks to their heavy investments in research and development,” Hou Yankun, an analyst at Nomura International Hong Kong Ltd., told Bloomberg. “They realize they can’t be competitive in the long term just by making low-skill products.”

Complete information about the Bay Bridge reconstruction, including 360-degree construction video, is available at


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Partnerships

Comment from Greg Samuelson, (7/19/2011, 10:55 AM)

Shame on the editors of PaintSquare for publishing this rubbish. This article was obviously written by a propaganda arm within the Chinese Government. Anyone who has been following the engineering and construction of this project would know that substantial amounts of work were regularly rejected by CalTrans engineers for weld and other material defects. The work was delivered late to the project site and the quality has been a major concern throughout the project. What has really happened here is that the citizens of California have provided funds to the Chinese government to develop the infrastructure and technologies necessary to put more US workers on unemployment. It was estimated that CalTrans shifted 1,200 US jobs to China by accepting the foreign bid…and in the process…has nearly destroyed the private heavy fabrication business on the US West Coast. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Comment from Greg Samuelson, (7/19/2011, 11:20 AM)

For reference....

Comment from Tim Race, (7/20/2011, 8:53 AM)

An earlier phase of the seismic retrofit on the Bay Bridge was performed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan)using steel produced and parts fabricated in Brazil by Usiminas. Major construction projects worldwide have long been bid by and awarded to major international construction and fabrication companies - just ask Bechtel (USA). Bechtel projects in China have included Hong Kong International Airport, Nanhai Petrochemical Complex, Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, etc. And from a Bechtel website: "Bechtel is a full-service provider of engineering, procurement, construction, and project management services in Greater China, with permanent offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei. We have worked in the region for more 40 years, completing hundreds of projects covering a wide range of industries, including petrochemical, power, infrastructure, industrial, and commercial." So why not Chinese companies in the USA? Xenophobia?

Comment from Greg Samuelson, (7/21/2011, 6:48 PM)

Tim, It’s hardly xenophobic to honestly discuss US industrial policy. Unless of course your only defense for shipping great paying US jobs to other countries…is to consider the discussion racist. The Chinese fabrication facility where the Bay Bridge parts were handled was design, constructed and paid for by the Chinese government. This is hardly a free trade issue. The last time I checked….the US government did not design, construct and pay for Boeing’s Everett, WA wide-body factory. The same cannot be said for the Chinese and their commercial C919 jet…all of the development funds have come from the Chinese government. The Chinese came into this discussion solely because they were the low bidder on the Bay Bridge project, not because they are Chinese. However, all of the US bidders were required to use US labor at prevailing wage and had self financed infrastructure. Neither of these restrictions was taken into account when the Chinese bid was accepted. The only thing that mattered was low price. And being the capitalist country that we are, we sold our Grandmother to the highest (lowest) bidder. And what happened to Grandma? She lost her house and all the highly skilled US workers who kept the house together. From the project accountants and production engineers to the highly skilled welders…all of these wages were lost to the US. At what point is it in the Nation’s interest to protect its own industrial base? For the owners of Bechtel, there is no distinction as to where the dollar of profit comes from. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the US industries that have been decimated by less than fair industrial free trade practices.

Comment from Tim Race, (7/28/2011, 8:31 AM)

I'd hardly equate xenophobia with racism. However, your additional comments provide the further explanation that I was looking for. Apparently it is not a level playing field. Thanks for your additional commentary.

Comment from Patrick Kennerson, (7/29/2011, 12:57 PM)

Having worked in China for several years, for American shipping companies, I have seen it all. The total disregard for the environment, workers making 50 cents an hour without any benefits, and the sub-standard quality of work. Nope, you cannot call it workmanship, because their isn't any. However, the shipping companies saved millions by averting any environmental regulations. All of the contaminants from the ship were swept into the rivers, including oil, paint cans, wet paint, sandblast residue, etc. I became very sick from the toxins in the environment, and had to quit, lest I expire from them. The average chinese worker is DONE by the age of 40, if they are not killed or maimed at work. Work that required skill was done by imported Americans, who ended up teaching their chinese counterparts. This is a country that is Mafia run, from top to bottom, with the communists as figureheads. This was explained to me by a good friend who belongs to the Mafia, and he proved his words. So, we are sending money and jobs to the worst criminal organization there is. The toothpaste and sheetrock scandals are just the tip of the iceberg. If the American people knew the whole truth, this story might have a different outcome

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