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fabrication of steel issue

By enelson
Tuesday, May 1st, 2007 at 11:49 pm in Bay Bridge, Caltrans, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Funding, Safety, Transit vs. driving.


I love my job.

One freeway ramp gets cooked and the next day it becomes the poster child for a dozen or so causes.

I received one press release today that said the collapse showed that California needs to build more highway capacity to cope with such a major disruption. The very next e-mail said the collapse and aftermath showed why public transit is so important as alternative transportation during a disaster.

I’m just waiting for Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington State Democrat with steel fabrication going on in his district, to jump on this as an example of what happens when the steel industry is not protected by stronger procurement rules for federally funded highway projects.

He told me last week that when California faces a disaster, like, say, an earthquake, the state should be able to rely upon a vibrant domestic steel industry to help rebuild.

Now Sunday’s ramp-melting gasoline tanker inferno was more of a mini-disaster emergency kinda thing, but it illustrates what Baird is so passionate about. The first thing we hear that is likely to hold up rebuilding is that steel is in short supply.

I suggested to one local transportation official that perhaps the steel from the dismantling of the old Carquinez Bridge could be melted down and used for the project. But steel people might tell you that first you’d have to ship it to China, where most of the steel for the $1.43 billion signature span of the new eastern Bay Bridge will be fabricated.

The bridge’s steel didn’t fall under federal “Buy America” requirements because domestic steel would have driven the price tag up more than 25 percent. Baird and some of his colleagues argue that if the entire $5.6 billion new bridge were considered as one project, the percentage increase is much smaller, and American steel would still be required.

As for the fallen viaduct, the most recent news seems to be that Caltrans will choose a contractor that can bring its own steel to the table, as it were. That might solve the little problem, but no doubt we’ll be hearing more about how this one freeway collapse is a good illustration of what’s wrong with the Bay Area, California and the nation.

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