Internal emails released under the Public Records Act hint at the extreme tension behind the scenes as Transbay officials scrambled late last year to deal with the discovery of cracks in critical steel support beams at the brand new Transbay Terminal. The cracks forced an emergency closure of the $2 billion project just six weeks after it opened.
“Please tell me this is a drill and not real,” Dennis Turchon, Transbay project senior construction manager wrote to another official on the project, Ron Alameida, the afternoon of Sept. 25, the day of the shutdown.
Five hours later, Alameida wrote back to Turchon -- who happened to be out of town that day -- saying that the facility had “closed for now as being super cautious.”
Alameida grumbled about how one of the transit agencies involved in the project was dealing with the stressful events of that day.
“AC Transit already acting out mid situation,” Alameida wrote to Turchon and to a second manager on the project, who worked for Turner Construction. “It was unbelievable. Hope to narrow area of impact quickly.”
Hundreds of pages of communications reviewed by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit deal mostly with media inquiries, but also show that federal officials pressed the importance of being kept posted, like the regional head of the Federal Transit Administration, who wrote about what he called an “ominous situation over there.”
The Inspector General’s office for the U.S. Department of Transportation also expressed interest in what had happened with the federally funded project.
The terminal is not expected to re-open until June at the earliest, as work on a fix and the investigation into what went wrong continue. The head of a peer review panel scrutinizing the project said last week the cracks were likely due to a confluence of circumstances, including the failure to grind smooth the edges of holes cut in the beams that later cracked. Rough edges in cut steel are known to trigger cracks.