House panel demands documents on controversial suspension bridge in Naranjito
By THE STAR STAFF
Rep. Edgardo Feliciano Sánchez, who chairs the House Committee for the Development and Supervision of Public Funds of the Northern Region, requested that the Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA), through Transportation and Public Works (DTOP by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Eileen Vélez Vega, furnish any document in its custody on the suspension bridge in Naranjito.
“On January 19, I asked the Highway Authority to send us the complete file on the suspension bridge within five calendar days,” Feliciano Sánchez said. “I will not accept excuses that there are lost or missing documents, nor any subterfuge that affects this investigation.”
In the information request under House Resolution 648, the committee requests, among other things, communications between the HTA and the contractor Piedras Construction, including submitted invoices, progress reports, and certifications of engineers, both from within the HTA and outside it, who certified the project.
“It is shameful what has happened with the suspension bridge,” the lawmaker said. “The people of Puerto Rico need explanations, and in a transparent and open way … we are going to discuss it in public hearings. The committee will be summoning the DTOP component and the Highway Authority and any officials who have been aware from 2000 onwards about the construction and the defects that existed in this bridge.”
The committee headed by Feliciano Sánchez will begin its public hearings next Wednesday, Feb. 1 with the appearance of Vélez Vega, HTA Executive Director Edwin González, HTA engineer María Ayala and the mayors of the towns of Naranjito and Comerío. On Feb. 2, former HTA director Luis Trinidad will be summoned, along with former DTOP secretary Carlos González and officials from Las Piedras Construction.
“The committee will be holding several public and onsite hearings,” Feliciano Sánchez noted. “I will also be sending a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives so that we hire a structural engineer from two shortlists that we will be requesting from the Engineers and Surveyors Association, and the engineering departments in Puerto Rico. These professionals cannot have had contracts with the Highways Authority or DTOP in order to have an independence of criteria that prevents any sign of a conflict of interest,” the lawmaker said.