Skip to comments.CA: (Bay) Bridge tower to blame for soaring costs (Caltrans)
Posted on 02/01/2005 8:53:48 AM PST by NormsRevenge
State transportation secretary Sunne Wright McPeak returns to the Capitol today to explain her thinking on the Bay Bridge reconstruction, but this time she'll be armed with a report of her own.
The 68-page report, released Monday, shows that a team of outside consultants agrees with her: The tower design for the new eastern span is responsible for just over half of the $2.5 billion-cost increase last year. It's backed up by five academics from around the country and is the most detailed support yet for McPeak's decision to scrap the tower for a skyway.
"We're very hopeful this information we're sharing can be looked at objectively," McPeak said. "This is our look back, but I think it is very instructive in understanding our decision to move forward with the skyway."
But today's Senate Transportation Committee hearing will be a case of dueling reports in an inquest aimed as much about deflecting costs as assigning blame for the bridge fiasco.
The six-hour hearing will delve into why McPeak ignored numerous technical reports showing that staying the course was the least risky option and why Caltrans didn't simply re-bid the tower, a method that saved it money on big bridge projects twice earlier.She and Caltrans Director Will Kempton say they made a judgment call. They focused on excerpts from wide-ranging and thorough studies which said a simpler design stood the best chance of saving time and money. They did their homework but reached a radically different and controversial conclusion than most readers of half a dozen studies reached.
During last Wednesday's grilling Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, said neither Bay Area or Southern California lawmakers will get their way entirely. He suggested putting an end to the political theater and cutting a deal to finish the bridge, now pegged at $5.9 billion.
But McPeak and committee chairman Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, paint two very different pictures of why the bridge is so expensive and what went wrong.
McPeak, and the new $250,000 The Results Group report, said the design, external market trends and added costs from finishing the job closer to 2011 than the original 2007 target are to blame.
Torlakson, armed with a scathing report by the Bureau of State Audits, says Caltrans mismanagement and the administration's failure to report spiralling costs early are to blame.
East Bay lawmakers point to reports pegging the cost of the tower at $930 million. The Results Group pegged it at $1.3 billion, adding in the foundation and Caltrans overhead.
If the Bay Area hadn't second-guessed Caltrans' 1997 skyway design, "we'd be cutting the ribbon today," McPeak said
But questions persist about the administration's reports. In February, McPeak told the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that she was worried about the upcoming bids on the tower three months later.
She testified and said again Monday that she was surprised by the bid results. No official word was given to lawmakers until August, even though MTC was briefed again in June.
After the Legislature went home deadlocked, McPeak called for, then dropped, plans for an internal audit of the bridge program.
She told reporters Monday she sought a study with a narrower focus in "October or early November," but a solicitation letter wasn't written until Nov. 23 and it wasn't until Dec. 7 she announced that she had hired The Results Group.
Earthquakes and environazis.