Dozens of steel bolts on the recently completed Mario Cuomo Bridge over the Hudson river to the north of New York City snapped during construction, and there are allegations that some workers tried to cover up the issue, according to reports in the US media.
The New York state attorney general confirmed to NCB News 4 that it has been investigating the bolts and the allegations that their failures were not reported.
The $4bn, twin cable-stayed bridge fully opened to traffic in 2018 as a replacement for the Tappan Zee.
State officials told The New York Times that there was no danger to the bridge’s structural integrity.
The New York Thruway Authority, which oversees the bridge and oversaw its construction, said it had hired independent experts to guarantee the bridge’s safety before it opened.
However, the allegations of falsification have raised questions as to how many of the 1 million bolts on the bridge might need to be inspected or replaced over time.
Thomas Eagar, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told News 4: "When I hear about false certification of documents it causes me great concern. Not that there is a real technical problem. There is a corruption problem."
NBC reported that some of the allegations emerged through a complaint filed by a former safety inspector that included a conversation with an ironworker foreman. A partial transcript of that conversation was included in a PowerPoint presentation made by a law firm for the whistleblower, which was obtained by The New York Times.
"That’s a spot that doesn’t break," the foreman says of the part of the bolt that broke. "It’s a major defect that does not normally occur," he said, adding that, if discovered, it "would probably shut the whole job down".
The attorney general’s investigation into the bolts has now been under way for more than a year, and is proceeding in parallel with a technical examination of the bridge.
Image: Work under way on the Mario Cuomo (Steve Strummer/CC BY-SA 4.0)