Fearing that the MTA is putting cost-saving measures over safety, a pair of local politicians are urging the Transit Authority not buy Chinese steel for work on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In a press release, Democratic State Senator Diane Savino and Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis joined forces to condemn the MTA for importing inferior quality steel products.
The MTA recently entered a five-year agreement with the Tudor Perini Corporation valued at $235.7 million. In turn, the Tudor Perini Corp. hired the China Railway Shanhaiguan Bridge Group to produce the 15,000 tons of steel that will be used in the construction and repair of various Verrazano Bridge projects. Citing that the Verrazano boasts the highest toll in the country as well as turning a $251 million profit in 2011, Savino and Malliotakis were outraged at the MTA would potentially sacrifice commuter safety to reel in greater profits.
“We must consider the quality of Chinese steel products. According to reports, this project would represent the first time that this Chinese State-Owned Entity has produced this particular product. We fear their lack of expertise might yield a product of substandard quality,” reads a letter jointly penned by Savino and Malliotakis. “Clearly, using substandard products on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will ultimately jeopardize safety and result in costly delays, overruns, and ultimately repairs. It would be unfair to shortchange our constituents, who pay the highest toll in the nation to use this bridge, by neglecting superior American-made steel.”
In an SI Live report, the MTA defended its actions by claiming that they couldn’t find an American steel maker able to work within the time frame established and that it would cost an extra $100 million to use American products. MTA spokeswoman Judy Glave went into further detail:
“Since it began developing specifications for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge upper deck replacement two years ago, MTA Bridges and Tunnels has worked diligently to find an American steel manufacturer with the capability, experience and desire to fabricate the steel bridge deck,” said MTA spokeswoman Judie Glave. “Despite reaching out to American steel companies and the General Contractors Association, the MTA could not find an American fabricator. 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. However, the MTA wants to continue working with the domestic steel industry to develop American-made solutions for bridge projects of this scope and complexity.”
The lawmakers, however, found that response unsatisfying. Yesterday, they issued another joint letter demanding that the MTA open the books, and show evidence of their “due diligence.” They requested the names of the firms applied for the contract, and why each was found unsatisfactory by the MTA.
At the same time, the duo continued to brandish the Verrazano’s high toll and its revenue – a purported $251 million profit – as evidence of why the extra $100 million would be worth the investment. Moreover, the latest letter asks, why would it cost an additional $100 million?
We are curious why holding up the Verrazano Rebuilding project to find a different firm, a firm which could possibly provide better quality steel, would cost the MTA $100 million dollars. This is not an insignificant sum of money, and we are interested in a detailed explanation fiscally of why a delay would cost this exact sum of money.