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Report: Bolt Failures in Cuomo Bridge

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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A number of steel bolts used in the construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge broke apart during the building process, according to reports. There are also allegations that some in leadership positions tried to cover up the issue.

According to NBC New York, the New York state attorney general is investigating the issue, as wells the allegations of corruption.

Bridge Project History

The new Cuomo Bridge consists of twin cable-stayed spans, each stretching 3.1 miles total, with a 1,200-foot-long main span. The first of the two new spans opened in August 2017, at which point demolition of the old Tappan Zee began; parts of the old bridge have recently been scuttled in the sea near Long Island to create artificial reefs. The original Tappan Zee Bridge was a 3-mile-long cantilever bridge opened in 1955. 

The first of the new spans was converted to handle westbound traffic only after the newer, eastbound span opened to traffic; traffic had been traveling in both directions on the one span for the past year.

The Tappan Zee project has been touted as the largest bridge construction job in the state’s history, and managed to remain largely on schedule and on budget. According to the New York State Thruway Authority, which has overseen the project, the construction required 14 miles of main span cables, 300,000 cubic yards of concrete and 200 million pounds of American-made steel.

The design-build team behind the bridge, Tappan Zee Constructors, includes Fluor, American Bridge, Granite Construction, Traylor Bros., HDR, Buckland & Taylor, URS and GZA.

In mid-September, the opening of the bridge’s second span was delayed after a piece of the old Tappan Zee Bridge became unstable and threatened to fall. At the time, the Tappan Zee was being disassembled. Later that same month, after the opening of the second span was delayed twice, a paper trail revealed that Tappan Zee Constructors was concerned about whether the job could be completed on time, even after the opening date was pushed from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7.

Steel Bolt Issues

While engineers have stressed that the both spans are safe for use, the corruption allegations have raised concerns over how many of the 1 million bolts used in the project will need to be inspected or eventually replaced.

NBC New York obtained reports of roughly 60 bolt failures. The person who raised the alarm used to work as a safety inspector. In response to a question regarding why the bolt issue was not being reported, an engineer in charge said on a tape from February 2016 that others would instantly think it was a “manufacturing defect,” and from there it would “get blown way out of proportion.”

The whistleblower went on to allege that throughout the project, bolt issue evidence was discarded and documents were falsified. State Thruway officials first became aware of the problem in 2016 and began monitoring and testing. In 2017, repeated testing was conducted to determine if there was a manufacturing defect or other issue. Thruway spokesperson Jennifer Givner noted that over a year ago, the Authority had hired “independent experts” to check the bolts. The conclusion was that both bolts and bridge were safe.

The whistleblower has filed a lawsuit, however, alleging that hydrogen embrittlement, which occurs when hydrogen contaminates steel, could be the culprit behind the breakage. Engineering firm Alta Vista said in a report that the likely cause of the past bolt issue was pre-existing cracks in a small percentage of bolts used in the structure.

"To date, all bolt testing performed by multiple parties indicates there is not an issue with the bolts," a spokesperson for Tappan Zee Constructors told NBC New York.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Project Management; Quality control; Quality Control

Comment from luiz de miranda, (12/19/2018, 8:06 AM)

Very impressive.

Comment from Tim Specht, (12/19/2018, 1:34 PM)

Bay Bridge?

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