STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The use of Chinese-made fabricated steel for the upper deck replacement of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge continues to draw fire — this time from workers on the project who point to non-conformance reports that cite problems with the welding on the orthotropic panels.
But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it has “eyes on the ground” in Shanghai, has engaged “welding experts” to oversee the work every six weeks and pledge that “the most stringent quality control” is being observed.
That’s the word from Carl Redmond, MTA senior project engineer, who was among a group of MTA officials to present an overview of the project to the Advance Editorial Board.
But sources familiar with the work have told the Advance that the quality assurance sub-consultant to U.S. contractor Tutor Perini, Alta Vista, has pointed to welding issues on the panels, and filed nearly three dozen non-conformance missives which “remain unresolved.”
The panels will comprise a new lighter steel orthotropic deck that will replace the 40-year-old concrete grid deck.
Sources note that some 150 panels, out of a total of more than 960 that will be used on the VN, are slated to leave China for the U.S. in late July.
That represents the first shipment of steel for the massive three-year $235 million upper deck replacement project.
Redmond refuted the claims, saying “sophisticated quality control” measures are in place, and that any issues with welding non-conformance “get corrected.”
“The fabrication of the panels go through a series of tests,” said Redmond. “We are absolutely convinced the quality is high … No-conformance reports are a tool. There is sophisticated quality control.”
In all, 16,000 tons of fabricated Chinese steel will be used on the deck.
Last year, the MTA defended its purchase of more than $2 million worth of the steel including Duplex Stainless Steel, saying the material was essential to provide greater resiliency against excessive wind.
At the time, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast pointed to an “absence of domestic steel fabricators capable of satisfying the requirements for a project of this scope and complexity.”
Tutor Perini hired the Chinese Railway Shanhaiguan Bridge Group to fabricate the steel from steel plate, which has been acquired from Angang Steel Group, China’s second-largest steel maker.
The orthotropic deck will be a continuous structure made of lighter-weight steel without expansion joints that can leak and deteriorate. And since the material is just an inch deep, it will be virtually pothole-proof, the MTA says.
It is expected to have a lifespan of 75 years.
Another 3,000 tons of U.S. steel is being used for ancillary uses.