The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee a state agency that oversees seismic retrofitting for Bay Area toll bridges on Wednesday agreed to underwrite an independent review of the new span, and pledged full cooperation to the effort.
The California Senate Transportation Committee asked the Legislative Analyst's Office to oversee that review, and then requested funding from the toll bridge committee. That group comprises Dougherty of Caltrans; Steve Heminger, executive director of the Bay Area Toll Authority; and Bimla G. Rhinehart, executive director of the California Transportation Commission.
In their letter to Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the Transportation Committee, the three executives noted "the importance of completing this review well in advance of the scheduled opening of the new east span over Labor Day weekend." They requested that the LAO "rely to the greatest extent possible on documents already developed by Caltrans and reviews already conducted by agencies and groups external to the department."
DeSaulnier said in an interview that while he also supports an expeditious review, the LAO will examine the relevant issues without restrictions.
The LAO "has a lot of integrity and a great reputation, and I'm not going to compromise it," he said.
The Senate request for the new study came in response to Bee investigations that reported gaps in key records and doubts about the tower foundation raised by outside experts. The Bee also reported on financial and professional conflicts of interest by the Caltrans panel of engineers who favorably reviewed the bridge last year.
Also on Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration released an examination of the Caltrans Foundation Testing Branch mandating improvements in data management and further research on "improper procurement" of construction materials from federally funded job sites.
The federal report finalized an investigation that began in March 2010. It said that Caltrans must have test procedures and data reviewed by outside experts, which took place during the GamDat process.
It also said Caltrans must determine how much steel was improperly salvaged by its employees, and if needed reimburse the federal government. The report ordered Caltrans to improve controls against fraud, waste and abuse.
The federal report summarized many of the concerns raised in prior draft versions, but excluded references to possible illegality by Wiles or his supervisor, Brian Liebich, who was fired from his job as head of the testing branch in 2011. Caltrans fired Liebich, in part, for alleged theft of federal construction materials and related abuse of pay rules regarding his employees. Liebich has denied the allegations and has appealed his firing.
Also excised from the draft reports were references to Caltrans' failure to inform the federal government promptly when state officials learned that Wiles had fabricated data involving structures previously reported as sound actions that can jeopardize federal aid for highway projects.
Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the federal agency, could not be reached for comment.