SAN FRANCISCO — California authorities are conducting an administrative investigation into the handling of welding problems on some sections of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge fabricated in China.

California State Transportation Agency spokesman Gareth Lacy said Friday that when his agency heard serious allegations about the welding during a recent committee hearing, it asked the California Highway Patrol to look into the matter.

According to the Sacramento Bee, James Merrill, a former quality manager for a CalTrans contractor in China, said at a Jan. 24 hearing of the California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee that his company lost its contract shortly after he told managers about serious welding problems. Merrill testified to the Senate committee that he was told to ignore cracks in some of the welds.

Merrill and an engineer named Douglas Coe told the senators that hundreds of cracked welds had been found in roadway box girders, which were made by Zhenhua Port Machinery Co., based in Shanghai.

Soon after Coe spoke out, he said, he was removed from his job by Tony Anziano, the bridge’s chief executive.

Anziano told the senators that he removed Coe because he had developed an adversarial relationship with the bridge-fabrication contractors.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com

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