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Port Mann Bridge builder Kiewit faces construction concerns in the U.S.

Intrepid reporter Dave White of News 1130, came across a big story today….–concerns-raised-in-us-around-bc-highways-contractor

“SEATTLE (NEWS1130) – Some alleged major problems with massive construction projects have been exposed in the US, involving a contractor also hired to build and maintain BC highways. The accusations centre around work done by Kiewit.

One of the apparent problems is near Seattle where Kiewit is rebuilding the SR 520 Floating Bridge over Lake Washington. Tracy Vedder is an investigative reporter with KOMO News; she tells us pontoons built to float the bridge may be failing.

“They’re basically marine structures,” she describes. “They need to be able to float and they need to be watertight. The first cycle of six pontoons that came out of Aberdeen that were constructed primarily by the prime contractors, Kiewit, has developed … quite extensive leaks.”

She says Kiewit is being investigated in California after allegations of construction flaws on the $6.5-billion rebuild of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

“There were some significant construction issues,” she tells us. “It’s being built specifically to withstand a major earthquake in the future.”

Vedder had difficulty getting a response from Kiewit, but they eventually got in touch. “They did say that they stand firmly behind the safety and quality of the work they’ve done in all of the bridges they’ve built in North America.”

However, the company deferred her questions about the SR520 project to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Vedder says this all comes as the Seattle Mariners sue Kiewit for problems with steel structures at Safeco Field.

She emphasizes her work isn’t done yet. “There’s a lot more to find out.”

In an e-mail from a BC Ministry of Transportation spokesperson, the province says it has complete confidence in Kiewit-Flatiron, and that the contractor was selected after an extensive and multifaceted process. The ministry insists work on projects like the Sea to Sky Highway and Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project has been frequently audited to ensure the highest standards are met, and that any problems found are the responsibility of Kiewit to repair.

Kiewit has had its problems in BC, most recently with a retaining wall rebuild at the Cape Horn Interchange. WorkSafe BC also investigated a worker’s death from a falling boulder at a dam project in 2008 in which safety provisions were brought into question.

News1130 has made requests for comment from Kiewit. We’re hoping to hear back from the the contractor today”

Interesting news and compelling to those who follow the transportation titans in BC closely, like both Dave and I do.

Do a little more searching on this Seattle floating bridge story and you find a host of other issues associated with that bridge, like workers drinking on the job, and contract terms that mean lucrative bonuses for the builder on one end… even if their own delays on the other end were behind it.

More alarming, are public records that indicate Kiewit installed faulty components despite being advised by a Washington State DOT engineer that he could not structurally approve it:

“Now the Problem Solvers have uncovered a new structural problem buried in thousands of documents we obtained through the Public Records Act: The type of structural weakness that could be as catastrophic as WSDOT’s own animation from 2007 depicting how the old bridge might come apart in a severe windstorm.  The key is the joints between pontoons and how they are connected with rebar called Hook Bars.

Internal WSDOT e-mails from last spring show that structural rebar in Pontoon V was “missing”. WSDOT’s own engineer Patrick Clarke noted that he could not “structurally approve it” without those essential pieces.  In spite of that, documents show that contractor Kiewit opted to ignore Clarke’s recommendations for repair, and quote “proceed at risk”.

Kiewit went on to do the same with the two other large pontoons so all three now on the lake are missing that critical rebar.  A second WSDOT engineer also found this was “not structurally acceptable.”  Documents and our insider also indicate that, just like in the WSDOT animation, the loss of that critical rebar would weaken the joints by as much as 50 percent, and could cause a similar “unravelling” in a severe, 100 year, windstorm event. “

The KOMO investigative reporter, Tracy Vedder, displays her exacting nature for facts in this telling email exchange between the herself and officials who are so busy spinning answers that they occasionally wrap themselves up in their own words.

Now, when we take a look at the San Francisco- Oakland bridge KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder mentions above, we find another concerning scenario, and another case of  officials stating everything is fine, while documentation shows otherwise.

“A builder of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridgefailed to disclose that a 19-foot section of concrete in the foundation of the span’s signature tower had not hardened before it was tested. By keeping quiet about the problem, the builder prevented further examination or repair.

The Bee found descriptions of the apparent defect in records provided by Caltrans last fall to reassure the public about the overall stability of the suspension segment of the bridge’s eastern span. Experts said the problem, combined with other construction and testing lapses by the California Department of Transportation and its contractors, raises new questions about the structural integrity of the bridge.

Kiewit-FCI-Manson, a joint venture, built the foundation as part of a $177 million contract. It did not provide the problematic 2007 test results until after a Bee investigation in November showed that a Caltrans employee skipped required test preparation for separate checks of the same foundation and fabricated results on other structures”

The story sparked a federal highways authority investigation into the response of Caltrans ( the state transportation authority) and ultimately a series of errors with testing concrete on other bridges and projects was uncovered.

I took a look at the Safeco field lawsuit, which has been going on for years, and to be fair the basis for the case was not based on Kiewits work, but rather steel products that were built by subcontractor for the project that were problematic. The Mariners sued the build team which included Kiewit for damages and liability.

Both Port Mann builders Kiewit and Flatiron worked on the San Francisco-Oakland bridge build detailed above.

More to come next week, but you might want to refresh your memory on the Public Safety Construction Corruption report that I obtained earlier this year on a freedom of information request….


  1. Absolutely despicable. No government — I DON’T CARE WHAT SIDE OF THE FENCE YOU’RE ON — no government and its/our employees should get away with this.
    Laila, GREAT!
    I was reading some of the links from previous. Unbelievable. There is just so much wrong. Why do people not see this?
    We’ll keep at it though, drawing attention to where it belongs.


    • Alarming to no end.

      I fear none of this kind of behavior by any contracter/builder will stop while there are lucrative bonuses directly tied to time deadlines. This is why.

      Say there is a deadline looming to get a particular section done on a project.The builder suddenly can’t get the required high-performance product he needs to the site in time, so they use a substandard product they know full well won’t perform as well, or as long, as the preferred product, specifically because the bonus deadline is looming… looming.. the builder stands to lose a lot of $$$ if he misses the deadline, the bonus as well as sometimes having to pay the client for his tardiness.

      So, they use a substandard material, rush the work, cut corners… get the bonus when they do indeed meet the deadline… knowing full well it will cost them less to do the inevitable repairs on warranty.

      Look at the bridge story above for Lake Washington.Aside from the leaking, when the builder was advised not to use the component because of a crucial bit of metal, and was told it could not be structurally approved.. they used it anyways. My observation is that this may be attributed to a contract deadline related to a bonus.

      All of this becomes problematic when we are dealing with not only public confidence in government projects, but also public safety. After years of crap construction in Quebec absolutely attributed to the ongoing evidence of corruption being given in sworn testimony during that commission – scandals of kickbacks, bidrigging, mafia involvement etc, it is absolutely time for the creation of a similar squad in British Columbia.

      I would very much look forward to hearing Adrian Dix, who is very likely going to be the next premier of British Columbia, make this call personally. Certainly as premier I would expect nothing less from him since the NDP has been very vocal in pointing out the Liberals failings and ongoing unethical behavior. If we are to assure British Columbians that this provinces infrastructure will not end up like Quebecs… crumbling, overpasses failing and falling, bridges with spalling concrete creating a public safety hazard…. it would only be the right thing to do.


  2. Guess we’ll know when it all comes down. Just like any other structure, there is risk involved. But those guys shouldn’t get any more contracts and inspections should be increased.


    • I know of at least one former technical worker on the golden ears bridge who will not drive over it…..and if you read the corruption in construction link above, you will understand how it happens that things get approved that really shoudnt.


  3. Every time I read about the Quebec corruption inquiry, I think of Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark. BC is as corrupt as Quebec. I suspect it is worse, since our police seem too involved to investigate.


    • Why is everybody forgetting about the most Corrupt yet?

      Mayor Dianne Watts SurreyBC

      Corruption at the Core, Construction, Developing you name it, Conflict of Interest in City Hall, latest & ongoing Councillor Bruce Hayne,

      why does a Mayor need dual Citizenship?
      What did that cost the City of Surrey?
      Threats 2 Families if they don’t want 2 sell their properties to Surrey Developers?
      Has anybody looked into the Construction companies and their real hidden background? who they actually belong to? You would fall off your chair.
      ETC ETC…

      I am just so mind boggled on how Surrey & BC in General is so asleep about what is going on right in front of their eyes?
      Harper & Watts all connected, why do we all have 2 wait until the whole Province collapses under the Corruption like Quebec? BC is a lot worse, Wake up, Think, listen 2 your Gut Feeling, what is it telling you?

      Oh Canada Oh Canada, how I miss you 😦


      • I’m not so sure how Hayne stepping down from his ad agency is a conflict unless his company had a city contract for advertising, which I dont see mentioned in the article.


        • The Conflict is right here Laila:

          His Company got all or most contracts…. Conflict of Interest where I come from, maybe I am too Ethical or just plain old fashioned, but I can spot a Crook from Miles away and Surrey City Hall has overstepped every boundary there is.

          By the Time Surrey wakes up there is nothing left of a Culture, it has been taken over already anyway.

          No, it is not mentioned in the Article, of course not, you should know how Watts manipulates & owns the Media in the Lower Mainland and beyond, her Feelers are everywhere, anything negative or the Name Watts & comments will be removed or blocked. She pays the Media well to be quiet about her Shenanigans, they all are gutless Greedy folks, NO MORE FREEDOM OF PRESS.

          All the local papers & Radio Stations plus TV are all well compensated to stop the Truth from being exposed, it will cost them there job and as I can see, people rather take bribes than stand up and be an honourable honest and good citizens and get on with life as nothing happened, just like Dan Bottrill, or Akolo that left BC, how come nobody wants to get to the bottom of the Barrel? Is everybody profiting from Watts & Gang to be quiet? She is in so deep with Harper that it starts to boil over, yet nobody connect the dots.

          Canada, BC doomed 2 Corruption.
          Sheep Country CANADA what a Shame


    • We need one here. As I said above, I am definately looking to an NDP government to call for one. In fact, that might be something for them to campaign on….


  4. I am not surprised at all that the lieberals would contract with such a firm. sounds like power for the course. the whole thing stinks on ice. It would be most entertaining to see an inquiry in B.C. & the lieberal’s actions such as they have in Quebec. I don’t expect to see it happen but it sure would be nice. Maybe we could even get some of the money back.


  5. I repeat, Watts is a carbon copy of Campbell and now Harper.
    Hundreds of millions of dollars on a failed garbage system. Nobody knows what goes in which monstrous garbage can but no fear Dianne will make sure they are all picked up. If she didn’t there would be none picked up and her gift to her friends on the garbage fiasco would be too obvious. Another flashing sign telling us all about garbage days goes up just up the street from me. How many of those money wasters are in Surrey now?
    Watts and her ‘independent’ slate, as she calls all the councillors she hand picked, belong in jail.
    Same old corruption, spend, spend, spend all the taxpayers money and destroy us.
    Dianne you need to join the BC Liars now and leave Surrey to an honest mayor and councillors.
    RESIGN NOW AND GO TO HELL, I suggest China or your second country of citizenship, the U.S.A.


  6. Watts also went into the last election with a kitty of $700,000.00 from her developer friends and big business. She alone also has control of all our once publicly owned property. Her mega development of City CENTRE NORTH, including new digs for herself and the corrupt RCMP and a library we did not need there……O man she just never stops stealing all our money.


  7. I know guys who worked on the Golden Ears and I know the concrete was poured too fast, etc., etc. and swore also that I would never cross that thing EVER. Kiewit is tops among many corrupt construction companies.
    Don’t forget either that two huge chunks of the Port Mann have already failed and been re-done, won’t cross that one either EVER.
    I believe that Kiewit amongst others made a deal with Campbell to take the workers out of the Construction and General Labourers Union 1611 and secretly transferred them to CLAC, CHRISTIAN labour association of canada. An Association is not a Union, the workers no longer have any rights to negotiate a contract or to vote on it, etc. and knew nothing about this until it was done, which begs the question where in the hell were 1611???? CLAC has now been kicked out of the BC Fed and CLC. In Alberta CLAC has caused the working people huge problems.


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