By Barrett Seaman
NBC New York’s Jonathan Dienst and members of the station’s I-Team have thrown a possible wrench into the gears of the nearly complete Mario Cuomo Bridge construction. The local NBC affiliate has a story quoting a whistleblower who says that dozens of bolts used to hold together parts of the new bridge were faulty and that workers with knowledge of the problem failed to report it for fear that it would bring construction to a halt while it was investigated.
The story quotes various experts speculating that the weakness could be caused by “hydrogen embrittlement,” whereby untreated bolts might have been contaminated by exposure to hydrogen. But it also quotes MIT engineering professor Thomas Eagar as saying that the limited number of faulty bolts (some 60 out of more than a million used) would not cause serious damage to the bridge.
The report also says that New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office is investigated the matter.
Jennifer Givner, a spokesperson for the Thruway Authority, which oversees the construction, wrote to The Hudson Independent, saying: “As expected in any infrastructure project of this size, the New NY Bridge project team required rigorous standards for all quality control and assurance processes in both its design and construction. In early 2016, independent experts began testing and later concluded that both the bolts and the bridge were safe long before either span of the bridge opened to traffic. Public safety is our highest priority and the bridge is completely safe for the traveling public.”
Further testing, according to a state official, has confirmed that the bolts are safe; that a miniscule number of bolts may have been damaged from other causes but that there was no evidence of hydrogen embrittlement, as had been discovered at the San Francisco Bay Bridge during its construction.