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Caltrans Fires Employees Over Bridge Safety Concerns

 The Sacramento Bee issued a report showing Duane Wiles falsified bridge safety data.

The California Department of Transportation announced Monday it fired a technician responsible for seismic testing after a Sacramento Bee investigation found he falsified safety tests on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as well as other projects in Southern California.

According to the paper, Caltrans employee Duane Wiles performed tests on seven of the 13 concrete and steel pilings holding up the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2013.

Image courtesy Flickr user Allan Ferguson
Image courtesy Flickr user Allan Ferguson

The Bee reported that in those seven tests Wiles had confirmed no structural issues were present in terms of concrete density in the foundation of the bridge. The paper later investigated, using outside experts, and found there were indeed problems with the bridge’s concrete density. 

The technician is also being scrutinized for using improper technique on dozens of other bridges and freeway structures, further raising questions about the validity of his data.

The Bee’s investigation included 50,000 tests documents throughout the entire state.

Locally Wiles worked on and inspected the bridge over the 405 Freeway at Braddock Drive in Culver City, the carpool flyover at the 60 and 57 freeways in Diamond Bar, as well as the La Sierra overpass on the 91 Freeway in Riverside.

Southland commuters believe Wiles should be punished for his actions.

West Los Angeles resident Andrew Murray said, “I think it’s wrong. I don’t think anyone should be falsifying [data], especially when it comes to people’s safety.”

Murray said regardless of the report he will still take the 405 and local freeways, but make sure to keep an eye out for suspicious structural deficits.

Meanwhile, Wiles and his supervisor, Brian Liebich, were placed on administrative leave three years after the fabrications were discovered and three weeks after the Bee contacted Caltrans regarding the questionable data.

During a teleconference Monday afternoon, Federal Highway officials and reporters were disgruntled about why Wiles was just recently fired, several years after investigations had ensued.

During a teleconference Monday afternoon, Federal Highway officials and reporters were disgruntled about why Wiles was just recently fired, several years after investigations had ensued.

Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Doughtery said during the teleconference that they "took action once we had enough information." He added that the supervisor was not let go in relation to the data falsifications, but due to misuse of state materials.

Doughtery also said that after through investigation on Caltrans' part they found that Wiles' falsifications were limited to three structures: a bridge in San Bernandino, an 405 retaining wall, and a 580 overhead sign in the Bay Area.

Caltrans did not find any evidence of falsification regarding the Bay Bridge, despite reports.

"There has been absolutely no evidence of any kind of any falsification on any testing data on the Bay Bridge project," said Tony Anziano, toll bridge manager for Caltrans. "We remain extremely confident about the safety of the tower's foundation."

Officials launched both federal and state investigations and both men will remain on administrative level.

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