Yorks Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is
coming under fire for its plan to use Chinese steel decking to
refurbish the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which spans the Hudson
River to connect Brooklyn and Staten Island.
In a letter to MTA
chairman and chief executive officer Thomas F. Prendergast, a
state senator and an assemblywoman expressed "grave concern
regarding your decision to use 15,000 tons of steel sourced
from China to rebuild the bridge."
"It is shocking that
the MTA would ... unnecessarily spend taxpayers dollars
on foreign labor and materials," Sen. Diane J. Savino (D.) and
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R.) wrote, adding, "We
strongly urge you to immediately reconsider this decision."
The MTA awarded a
$235.7-million, five-year project to Sylmar, Calif.-based
contractor Tutor Perini Corp. last fall.
"Since it began
developing specifications for the upper deck replacement two
years ago, MTA has worked diligently to find an American steel
manufacturer with the capability, experience and desire to
fabricate the steel bridge deck," MTA spokeswoman Judie Glave
said in a June 21 e-mail to AMM. "Despite reaching out
to American steel companies and the General Contractors
Association, the MTA could not find an American fabricator" of
orthotropic decking, which consists of precast steel panels
rather than traditional steel-reinforced concrete
"Delaying the project
to accommodate an American fabricator would slow it by up to
two years and increase the cost by up to $100 million," Glave
The MTA wants to work
with the U.S. steel industry "to develop American-made
solutions for bridge projects of this scope and complexity,"
"Its a terrible
decision," Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers
union, told AMM. Perhaps there is no domestic
fabricator of orthotropic decking, but "the Chinese company
never made them before, either."
"MTA needs to review
what happened to the Bay Bridge and others using Chinese
components," he said, referring to Chinese-produced and
Chinese-fabricated steel used in the San
Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge project.
The Bay Bridge is six years behind schedule and plagued with
massive cost overruns, and "many commuters dont trust
it," Gerard said. The California Department of Transportation
"had to send American engineers to China to help them figure
out how to do it right," he added.
Instead, he suggested,
the MTA should "look at the American ingenuity that built the
bridges that have lasted 50, 60 and 70 years" and realize that
the U.S. steel industry provides superior engineering, quality,
efficiency and cost-competitiveness.
The Chinese steel
producer and fabricator making the Verrazano decking are
state-owned, Gerard noted. "If we sell our steel for a dollar,
they sell it for 98 cents," he said.
"MTA is subsidizing
the Chinese industry," Gerard said, adding that Chinese
industry produces "three times the carbon emissions" the U.S.
steel industry does. "Theres no justification whatsoever
not to have it built with domestic steel, domestic engineering
and domestic fabricating."
The USW will take
action by building alliances, advertising on prominently placed
billboardsas it did in the Bay areahaving union
workers carry signs near the bridge and launching a
letter-writing campaign to New York and federal authorities,
Editor's Note: Due to a reporting
error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated
that Chinese-produced steel anchor rods failed after being
installed in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Leo Gerard,
president of the United Steelworkers union, did not
specifically refer to any current problems with construction of
the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in his interview with
AMM, but did note the projects "broad" history
of "being behind schedule, plagued with cost overruns and
causing California commuters to lack confidence in a bridge
that was primarily produced and fabricated in China," a USW
spokesman clarified on June 24.