Salesforce Transit Center Closed Due To Cracked Steel Beam Under Roof-Top Park – Cost-Cutting Efforts To Blame?

On Tuesday, September 25th, there were reports of a crack that was discovered in a steel beam that supports the roof top garden called “Salesforce Park” of the $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center, also called by it’s naming rights name “Salesforce Transit Center”.

ABC News Channel 7 is reporting that Salesforce Transit Center crews found a “fissure in a steel beam on the third level of the transit center.”

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) announced that Fremont Street between Mission and Howard Streets is closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic while TJPA officials inspect the building and investigate how the crack came to be in existence.

Given that the Transbay Transit Center was the focus of a giant cost-cutting effort, one that Zennie62Media learned contributed to the media reports of cracking walkways at the Salesforce Park Roofstop Park, did the same cost-cutting effort introduced at Oakland News Now, create a situation that caused this problem? The TJPA (Transbay Joint Powers Authority’s) Executive Director Mark Zabaneh, lead a press conference, today, where he made a statement that may point to how the problem was caused (video courtesy of KPIX Channel Five San Francisco).

Mark Zabaneh said “It became apparent that the bus deck needs to be closed for bus and the building is that it needs further inspection based on that information and because safety is our highest priority we decided to close the building and move operations to the temporary terminal.

“The beams transferring load from the bus deck and the park and on top of Fremont Street. I don’t have all the information yet as to what the tributary area of the beam is and the size of the crack yet but that’s something that we’re gonna find that tonight and it sure with you tomorrow that information comes in the beam is six and a half feet deep going this way it supports a portion of the bus stick and portion of the park not the entire bus therefore the park it so localized.”

Then later in the press conference, Mr. Zabaneh said “We had a very rigorous inspection process after installation probably about a year or so ago. It’s very disappointing that we have this is very disappointing for us as partner or for us for building the responsible for building the Transit Center it’s very disappointing that we have to inconvenience the public but it’s a safety issue and we take it seriously and we can’t take any chances.”

“A year or so, ago” would be in 2017. During that same year, Mr. Zabaneh headed a group called the “Cost Review Committee,” who’s charge is obvious by it’s name.

The Cost Review Committee (CRC) was created August of 2016 and held its first meeting on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. The CRC came with the change in TJPA executive directors from Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan to Mark Zabaneh. On the CRC were the City and County of San Francisco Controller, the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

The Cost Review Committee was to “make recommendations to the TJPA Board about any proposed budget or budget amendment, before the TJPA Board considers taking action on any such budget or amendment.”

In other words, the job of the CRC was to review the Transbay Transit Center budget and find areas where it could be cut. The reason was the Transbay Transit Center was over-budget, and in large part due to the price paid for steel due to unforceable dramatic increases in the price for metals after the Great Recession, and during President Obama’s Economic Recovering Plan, which called for giant levels of spending for bridges and other infrastructure (like the Transbay Transit Center itself) – the kind of developments that would push up the price for steel.

The result was a cost overrun of about $300 million, an effort to reduce the cost, and the parting of ways with Ayerdi-Kaplan and the uninformed media-spin that it was all her fault. Something she demonstrated was not true in Oakland News Now. But what about the CRC and the crack in the steel beam, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle?

This blogger found an entry in the CRC memo of February 17 2017, and that was this:

TG08.6R – Metal Ceilings
CR T-207 – ASI 140 Drop-in Span Aluminum Enclosure, VE Item – $450,000
The scope to be procured under this CR is due to acceptance of the value engineering design recognized in Trade Package 18.1, Bus Ramp, for a credit of $1.5 million. The value engineering consisted of replacing an orthotropic concrete structure with exposed steel beams. The value engineering change requires an aluminum enclosure to wrap the exposed steel at Frame 5 of the Bus Ramp. This CCO request to the Cost Review Committee is for an NTE amount of $450,000.

The “Value engineering design recognized in Trade Package 18.1, Bus Ramp” points to a 2014 plan you can see here – one that was altered in the above-referred-to February 17 2017 memo. The CRC idea was to replace the orthotropic concrete structure with the exposed steel beams. An “ orthotropic concrete structure” refers to one that is horizontal and designed to bear a load – like a roof-top park.

Were they the same steel beams that cracked? This blogger’s null hypothesis is the answer’s yes. To this blogger, it appears that the main problem is the Transbay Transit Center Cost Review Committee made the assumption that replacing the “ orthotropic concrete structure with exposed steel beams” would automatically result in steel beams that could bear the daily, 24-and-7, undulating load without cracking, yet save $450,000.

I can’t find any evidence that they tested to evaluate the steel beams ability to handle a load under what’s called “simple harmonic motion” – or rhythmic beating and movement on pavement or a roof – or in this case, both.

Balls in the TJPA court. The Cost Review Committee selected over $22 million in change-orders on Valentine’s Day 2017, alone. What other cost reductions were done in such a way that they appear to be without regard for structural integrity?

Stay tuned.

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