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.
Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle
A Caltrans-ordered investigation into the Bay Bridge fiasco blames the bulk of the $2.5 billion in cost overruns on the choice of a relatively uncommon single-tower suspension span, an unforeseen spike in steel prices and repeated delays.
Question..I haven't really followed this, but isn't it really about whether the higher cost of a spectacular design for the new bridge is worth it, as opposed to a convention span? The existing structure is pedestrian, utilitarian, and ugly..but seems to me, as one who has visited the Bay are many times..anything will pale next to the GGB..so is it worth even trying?
All these people can do is make another study. What a bunch of inept maroons. Once again Government proves it can do anything slower, more expensively and more disatrously then private enterprise. Wonderful. And don't tell me private companies are doing the building, that's true. What is also true is Government is responsible for the idiotic bids and the choice of builders and failure to correct mistakes because they can't admit making them.
You know these public works costs overruns would not occur if we did one thing.
The political hack that pushed this project on the public spends one day in jail for every dollar over budget. This includes the project managers as well. Every dollar under budget and gets given as a bonus.
Throw the taxpayers money around...who gives a crap....
I'd say, bring back the ferry systems myself, a lot cheaper to maintain.. lol
This has been a sight thingy as to how the new span should fit into the Bay and its view.. cost was no object,, for awhile.. The Mayors and groups from both sides of the bay wanted scenic versus functional ... but once the rubber hit the road and cost overruns kicked in (when don't they lately?), it's time to get the fingers out and start pointing at each other.
It's symbolic of what passes for leadership in California politics for quite a few years. Prudent Change is not easy, for some. no matter how much it may cost all of us in the end.
As well as prohibiting the naming of any public structure, paid for by public funds, after any public servant, employed or elected, until 50 years after their death. The over abundance of public structures named after politicians is an encouragement to build where no structure is needed or expand the structure if it will be named after some politician.
It's not even remotely likely that the existing bridge would sustain serious damage in any future quake. This effort is driven by the Operating Engineers, and Ironworkers unions.
If a new bridge is ever built, it should go from Alameda to the Candlestick Park area, or from the San Leandro marina area. (my personal opinion is let Frisco die!)
Are you saying that the traffic studies don't support the need for a new bridge? can you cite a source?
a very good point.
It's on life support now, right? Cesspools should be absorbed into the earth's regeneration cycle.
This has nothing to do with traffic. The new span will have the same capacity as the old one, since it still must go through the west span. Traffic studies have indicated that we need a 'southern span' since the mid 50s, but that isn't politically correct.
OK..so then the reason is that the existing span isn't structually sound?..
Sorry, but San Francisco is booming. Bad people don't always get the bad economic outcomes you might think they deserve. ;)
As for the skyway design, McPeak elliptically blames "the Bay Area" when it's the fault of politicians like Don Perata, who were no doubt trying to jack up the cost to get more of their union campaign contributors on the payroll.
That's it. Another 7.0 quake and down it goes, probably killing a couple thousand people. Don Perata and the Democrats in the legislature are criminally irresponsible...but you could have guessed that. ;)
OK..but what, 90% of structures in the area won't survive a big one....is the new bridge designed with greater capacity...and/or carry a mass transit line?..will it cause greater traffic, as often happens.
That's the line of hype that they are pushing, but the last quake proved that the existing span is bullet-proof. It went through the Loma Prieta quake without damage (although a piece of the upper deck that was not fastened fell, without damage).
This is just an effort to funnel money to the unions and the polititions that they support.
2) They can't include a mass transit line because they would have to also retrofit the existing suspension span between Yerba Buena island and San Francisco (at a hideous cost). The Bay Bridge used to carry trains a long time ago (in the 50's), until they converted both decks to handle cars.
Thanks..here in Westchester..suburban NYC..we're goingn through the process of dealing with the TappanZee brige..built in the 50's..the only cross Hudson link in the are...terrible over capacity..world's longest traffic jam...every interest group trying to get their piece..screw it up..the process will be tied up forever, til the bridge falls down..
That's certainly true. Democrats were hoping that the boom would continue and state tax revenues would be so high that no one would notice the cost overruns.
Earthquakes and environazis.