Related to Alta Vista Solutions’ Involvement In Assuring Quality for the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
1. How did the consultant contract to provide Caltrans QA services transition from MACTEC to Caltrop/Alta Vista in 2008?
MACTEC used all of the resources in the original contract, which required that the contract be rebid. A multi-agency panel chose the Caltrop/Alta Vista team out of three qualified bidders for the new contract.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) procures Architectural and Engineering (A&E) consultant services for a defined amount of time and money before re-advertising the contracts in an open competitive selection process. MACTEC successfully competed for and won a contract to perform QA services for the California Toll Bridge projects in 2006. By the middle of 2008, MACTEC expended the funds in their contract. Based on standard practice Caltrans then re-advertised the contract.
Three firms submitted proposals for the new contract in August of 2008. In accordance with established processes and procedures, a panel of senior engineers and bridge professionals, from Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the California Transportation Commission (CTC), determined that all three proposals met the project requirements. Each team was interviewed and presented their personnel, project understanding, and project approach followed by answering a series of highly technical and specific questions related to the project. In a close vote, the 7-person panel selected the Caltrop-Alta Vista team.
The Caltrop-Alta Vista team offered a different management approach to assure quality of the new bridge, which the multi-agency selection panel preferred. Caltrop-Alta Vista created a comprehensive training program to ensure staff could work professionally and collaboratively with all parties when performing inspections. While documenting issues was important and necessary, success on the project would be based on preventing those issues from recurring. The selection panel also felt that the Caltrop-Alta Vista approach of placing inspection staff at the location where fabrication was occurring was critical to eliminating inefficiencies and developing strong relationships to successfully produce what would be one of the most complex steel projects ever attempted.
2. Was the Caltrop-Alta Vista team less rigorous than MACTEC (the previous consultant providing QA services on the Bay Bridge)?
No. In fact when Caltrop / Alta Vista fully took over from MACTEC in January of 2009, we increased the documentation of quality issues by 541% (as illustrated in figure 1 below). Our team created over 560,000 pages of quality-related documents. Most importantly, we ensured that any issue identified in those documents was resolved before the bridge was opened.
Figure 1. Quarterly summary of quality issues documented by Caltrans – METS.[
3. Was the Caltrop-Alta Vista team qualified?
Yes. The Caltrop-Alta Vista team produced a Statement of Qualifications that was analyzed by a 7-person panel of engineers and bridge officials from Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and the California Transportation Commission. This panel determined the Caltrop-Alta Vista team had the requisite qualifications and certifications. Additionally, due to the unique requirements of the Bay Bridge, the selection panel went beyond the normal process and requested a second submittal from the qualified firms. Caltrop-Alta Vista produced the requested certifications, further documenting the team’s qualifications. After being awarded the contract, the Caltrop-Alta Vista team was subjected to in-depth testing that concluded they possessed “the skill and determination” for the project.[
4. Did Alta Vista ever feel threatened for identifying issues?
No. The reality was completely the opposite. It was our job to identify issues and we documented thousands of them in over 560,000 pages of documents. Our client did not always agree with our solutions, or follow our suggestions, but they allowed us to make them and did not criticize us or take steps to silence us when we identified issues. Ultimately, we stand behind the work that was done on the Bay Bridge.
5. Did Alta Vista recruit and hire MACTEC and/or Caltrans employees?
Fewer than 10% of Alta Vista employees had previously worked for MACTEC or Caltrans. Alta Vista Solutions is incredibly selective when hiring new members of our team. We look for the best-qualified professionals with the right attitude for success. Our employees have a wide range of backgrounds, including military, public, and private service. We have openly hired talented employees from competitors like MACTEC and public agencies like Caltrans (as shown in figure 2 below). We have also had our employees leave and join other teams. This is common practice in our industry.
Figure 2. Breakdown of how many people Alta Vista hired that previously had Caltrans or MACTEC experience.
6. Did Alta Vista object to using different inspection methods to find cracks?
No. In fact, Alta Vista identified multiple different types of inspection techniques and methodologies in the event more detailed evaluations were needed. However, the contractor opposed additional testing with a position that it was not clearly required by the welding codes referenced in its contract with Caltrans.
While Alta Vista did not object to the use of different inspection methods, we also acknowledged the lack of an unambiguous requirement in the contract to perform such testing. The disagreements surrounding this issue have been sensationalized and distorted by media to suggest that our client’s top management were willing to accept bridge components that did not conform to the contract requirements. The investigative reporter for the California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee spent ten pages of his report describing disagreements between passionate engineers who all wanted nothing more than to assure the safety of the traveling public.
Those disagreements only demonstrate that the process we followed included open communication between the Quality Assurance inspectors, the contractor, and Caltrans. Through that process, the team ultimately decided to convene a panel of world-renowned experts to assess the bridge components in question. That expert panel determined — in a 300 page report — that while there appeared to be tiny cracks in the components, those cracks would not affect the design life of the bridge and that no additional testing was required.[
7. What was Alta Vista’s involvement with the failed anchor rods?
Alta Vista did not have any involvement in the quality assurance of the failed anchor rods. The delivery and installation of the anchor rods that eventually failed occurred before the Caltrop-Alta Vista team began working on the project in December of 2008.
Since the failure, Alta Vista Solutions has been assisting Caltrans to identify the cause of the failure and performing comprehensive testing to better quantify potential problems with the ASTM A345 BD anchor rods.
It should be noted that none of the anchor rods inspected and released by Alta Vista failed.[
8. What aspect of Quality Assurance was Alta Vista responsible for?
Alta Vista has a contract with Caltrans supporting the Materials, Engineering, and Testing Services (METS) division within Caltrans. METS is responsible for the quality assurance of bridge components being manufactured or fabricated at various facilities throughout the world. Alta Vista was responsible for the quality assurance at sources of supply in 8 countries and 22 states in support of the new bridge.
The Quality Assurance of the construction at the jobsite is not the responsibility of METS or Alta Vista. This portion of the work is the responsibility of the Caltrans Division of Construction or the Office of Structure Construction. However, METS and Alta Vista perform quality assurance inspections of on-site welding and coatings when requested by Construction.[
9. What involvement did Alta Vista have in the pre-stressing tendons that became corroded?
Alta Vista did not have any involvement in the quality assurance of the corroded pre-stressing tendons. As stated above, Alta Vista supported METS who was responsible for the quality assurance at sources of supply (not at the construction sites). The delivery and installation of the pre-stressing strand that corroded occurred before the Caltrop-Alta Vista team began working on the project in December of 2008.