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[Live Webinar] “Conflict of Interests” Corrupts Engineering and Endangers Public Safety- The Case of the New SAS Bay Bridge

Intended Audience: All Engineers
Credits: 2 PDH Units
When: Wednesday 10/13. 2 – 4 pm ET


We promise you a very special webinar .  This is not your ordinary boring ethics webinar.  We are very proud to bring this webinar to you.

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake resulted in the drop of a 50-feet long segment of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, an 18,000 feet long steel bridge. The earthquake caused the collapse of the concrete double-deck viaduct killing 42 people.  California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)  undertook a multi-billion dollar retrofit and replacement program, which included the replacement of the Eastern Spans of the Bay Bridge with a single-tower self-anchored suspension bridge.  The bridge took 15 years of construction, more than twice the original plan. At the cost of $6.5 billion, a 2,500%  cost overrun from the initial estimate of $250 million, the SAS Bay Bridge ended up having more than 16 structural severe problems including fracture of the anchor rods of the main tower, which occurred even before the bridge opened to traffic. This webinar traces the root cause of the problems of SAS Bay Bridge mainly to the “conflict of interest” in the engineer members of various advisory and peer review committees of Caltrans. The engineers, charged with independently overseeing and peer-reviewing the seismic safety aspects of the new bridge, were themselves receiving contracts to do the design and testing work on the same bridge that they were peer-reviewing.

Professor Astaneh will present the results of his extensive failure analysis of both the 1936 East Spans of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which sustained relatively minor damage but was demolished and replaced with the new Self-Anchored Suspension (SAS) Bay Bridge, which opened to traffic in 2013.

He will show, through analysis of the seismic performance of both 1936 bridge and the 2013 replacement, how “conflict of interest” in the members of the top advisory boards and the peer review committees was at the root of design and construction problems of the new bridge.  Some critical elements of the new SAS Bay Bridge, such as the 3-inch diameter high-strength anchor rods of the tower and west-support,  fractured even before the bridge was opened to traffic.

References and Recommended Further Readings:

  1. Code of Ethics of National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)  (PDF)
  2. NSPE Ethics Reference Guide (PDF)
  3. ASCE Code of Ethics (PDF)
  4. Ethics, Technology, and Engineering, a book by Ibo van de Poel and Lambèr Royakkers, Wily-Blackwell, 2011. (Amazon page)
  5. Concepts and Cases-Engineering Ethics, a book by Charles E. Harris et al., published by Cengage2019. (Amazon page)
  6. Concerns on Seismic Safety of the New East Bay Bridge Design, by A. Astaneh-Asl, Submitted to MTC.
  7. Astaneh Letter to Bay Area Toll Bridge Oversight Committee on SAS Bay Bridge Problems, PDF
  8. Concrete Credence: More Bay Bridge Woes May Validate Concerns of Span’s #1 Critic by Glen Martin, CALIFORNIA Magazine (PDF)
  9. A Bridge Too Weak?, Ron Russel, San Francisco Week l
  10. Bridge Over Troubled Bolts: Cal Experts Question Whether New Bridge is Safe, CALIFORNIA Magazine (PDF)
  11. Cracked welds raise doubts about Bay Bridge safety, by Charles Piller, Sacramento Bee Newspaper (PDF).
  12. Do hidden cracks imperil Bay Bridge? By Charles Piller, Sacramento Bee Newspaper (PDF)
  13. A Bridge Suspended in Controversy WIRED Online Magazine
  14. Panel that reviewed Bay Bridge foundations has ties to Caltrans, Sacramento Bee Newspaper (PDF).
  15. Bay Bridge troubles began with design – SFGate.
  16. California lawmakers prescribe more transparency and independence for megaprojectsEast Bay Times

Date:  Wednesday. October 13. 2021 . Starts: 2 – 4 pm ET
Credits: 2 PDH Units

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the course, the student should understand:

  • What does Canon 3 of Code of Ethics: “ Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner “ means?.
  • What does Canon 4 of Code of Ethics: “Engineers shall act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees” means?.
  • Why “Avoiding Conflict of Interest”  is one of the fundamental principles of the Code of Ethics for Engineers.
  • What are the “legal” and “ethical” responsibilities of engineers to “Avoiding Conflict of Interest.”
  • How not “Avoiding Conflict of Interest” was at the root of many problems and failures of the new SAS Bay Bridge.
  • How not “Avoiding Conflict of Interest can lead not only to corruption and fraud but to safety problems.
  • How the 1936 East Spans Structure of the Bay Bridge performed during the 1989 earthquake and how it would perform during future earthquakes after a relatively limited retrofit.
  • How might the 2013 New SAS Bay Bridge perform during future earthquakes?.
  • What “conflict of interest existed in the members of the Caltrans Seismic Advisory Board and Caltrans Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel concerning planning, design, testing, and construction of the SAS Bay Bridge.
  • What lessons can we learn from the case of SAS Bay Bridge to “Avoid Conflict of Interest.”

Special Webinar Instructions

After payment, please visit this webinar page, click “Start Course” and fill out the Webinar Registration Form.  You’ll receive email notification and details on how to join the webinar.  You will then be able to access the webinar slides, test your system and receive webinar reminders.  After completing the webinar requirements, your certificate of completion will be saved and available for download in your profile.

We value your feedback! Please rate this webinar after completion.

Group Discounts Available

Course Reviews


24 ratings
  • 5 stars15
  • 4 stars5
  • 3 stars3
  • 2 stars1
  • 1 stars0
  1. SAS Bay Bridge Conflicts of Interest



  2. conflicts of interest sas


    Too much of the bridge design data.

  3. Interesting Information, but...


    Interesting subject matter. However, the Professor came across as bitter because his retrofit design was not selected. And, to some extent I was left with the sense that he created this webinar to “get back at them”. But, that issue aside, it was very interesting.

  4. “Conflict of Interests” Corrupts Engineering and Endangers Public Safety- The Case of the New SAS Bay Bridge


    Speaker was disorganized. He did not cover all the material on which questions were based in the quiz. He rambled and spent too much time on personal matters.

  5. Informative Course


    The material was very informative. While the course was to focus on ethical issues, there was a great amount of time spent presenting several issues that were simply professional negligence. For one example, I believe that the choice to hot-dip galvanize high strength bolts could have or would have been made regardless of the top-level conflicts of interest in the designer selection process. Also, I was left with the impression that there was a lot of selfaggrandizement by the presenter in the presentation.

  6. Excellent Course


    This course was technically interesting and a refreshing discussion on the need for engineers (no matter what you are doing) to stay ‘in the light’ with respect to ethical behavior.

  7. OK presentation


    The subject was fascinating and relevant.
    Presentation was hampered by low audio from presenter, which was never addressed, despite chat comment. presenter often mumbled, which made the problem worse.
    I have passed the quiz, but haven’t been able to find how to print certificate — yhour process is too cumbersome/complicated.
    J. A. Sanford, PE
    [email protected]

  8. Very Informative


    Informative and well-presented. I understood the structural concepts, despite the fact that I am a petroleum engineer, not a civil engineer.

  9. Most Excellent Webinar


    Professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl nailed it. He cut to the essence of many of the problems with this out of control project. My grand children will be paying for this mess. The engineers mentioned in the presentation were more a victim of California politics than their own ethical lapses. An entire semester or two could be spent on exploring the SFOBB project and it’s associated issues. Professor Astaneh-Asl was able to boil it down to two action filled hours for our benefit. This webinar should be a requirement for continuing education for all of us engineers. I obviously highly recommend this webinar.

  10. Conflict of Interest


    Thought the speaker was bias but the information was really interesting.

  11. 5

    Excellent topic and presentation. Professor Astaneh-asl did a clear and concise summary of the seismic analytical evaluation of the east span as well as the inherent conflicts of interest in the advisory boards charged with protecting the public interest. He also clearly showed how CALTRANS biased the retrofit decision by creating a technical solution known to be expensive enough to “justify” a new viaduct. I am professionally embarrassed that it took investigative journalists to expose the flagrant conflicts. The collective silence of the local professional engineering community spoke their consent to this violation of professional ethics and is, in itself, disgraceful.

  12. Conflict of Interests Corrupts Engineering and Endangers Public Safety


    Very informative presentations

  13. Good Overview of Suspension Bridges vs Ethics


    Good overview of suspension bridges and ethically what not to do in any project. It is hard to believe that the Bay Bridge got that far “off target” during both design and construction. It went from an engineering project to a political project ripping off people. It should not surprise me that in the end, nothing really changed since politics were involved and the “fox is watching the hen coop”. It shocked me even more because it sounded like technical/engineering problems were never fixed. The problems are going to come back in the future and haunt the bridge itself, resulting in even more money for repairs and maintenance. Overall comment on the presentation was live webinar sound quality-the professor dropped his voice and mumbled sometimes making it hard to understand what he was saying. A few of the course pages were slightly different than his, but that was not a serious problem.

  14. A Fast 2 Hours


    I have over the years been to many coursed this was one of the best I have sat through

  15. 5

    Very interesting course that addressed actual ethical problems. Much more engaging than previous ethics seminars I have been involved with.

  16. Conflict of Interest - Ethics Course


    Great class and an interesting and more fun approach to learn about real life conflicts of interest and ethics violations. Highly recommend.



    Excellent Webinar but what took place on this bridge project is scary & very unfortunate.

  18. Another great webinar from Professor Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D., P.E.


    This is the second recent webinar I’ve taken from this professor and it was very good. I would strongly recommend this course to anybody looking for an interesting and for the most part inexpensive way to earn ethics PDH credits. There may be cheaper options out there if you’re just going through the motions and doing the very least amount of work possible. However, if you want to learn about actual events that were shaped negatively by unethical engineering behavior AND do it an interesting, entertaining, and educational way then THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT. I will be watching for and then enrolling in any future webinars offered from this professor.



    but distressing story of corruption within the engineering community, told by one with first-hand knowledge of the events. I would have liked more information on if and how the state licensing board addressed the issue.

  20. The Case of the New SAS Bay Bridge - Based on Personal Experience


    A case study of engineering ethics based on the personal experience of the instructor on a major California bridge project. The instructor personally observed the ethical issues during his work on the project and therefore brings his close-up and detailed perspective. He is able to relate the story of the project with details that illuminate the ethical concerns and keep the course interesting.

  21. Disturbing case history


    Sobering story of a critical bridge. Dr. Astaneh is very knowledgeable on this project. It was a little slow getting going. would like liked more time for Q&A but glad I was able to join in.

  22. Great Story of Politics, Greed , and Engineering


    Excellent course about how politics, greed, and unethical practices can bilk taxpayers and lead to public endangerment.

  23. Excellent Presentation


    It is a shame for such a critical infrastructure of transportation for the Bay Area, not to mention the investment of our country’s resources, that more care was not taken in the selection of the design type! Kind of boggles the mind!

  24. Conflicts of Interest The Case f the NEW SAS Bay Bridge


    Well presented by an expert in the field.

  • $139.00
  • Average Rating4.4
  • Webinar No: WBNR 1139
  • PDH Units: 2

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