Senior state transportation officials are acknowledging serious problems during construction of the $6.5 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge but deny reports that employees were repeatedly reassigned after raising red flags about faulty work.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty acknowledged "very visible breakdowns" in quality assurance during a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Lawmakers are reviewing a critical investigative report that found senior officials repeatedly brushed off criticism about flawed welding, bolts and other engineering.

Democratic state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord said Dougherty was in denial about a culture of punishing critics within Caltrans.

He plans to take the findings of a legislative report to the state attorney general.

"I'm not a prosecutor, I'm not saying there's criminality. I'm just saying, given the size of the project and the number of questions that are still unanswered, that I think it would be appropriate," DeSaulnier said. 

Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly says the Caltrans culture is "not OK" and promised to address it. He asked the California Highway Patrol to investigate claims of retribution and project mismanagement.

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