Skip to comments.Bay Area to get suspension span, $4 tolls
Posted on 06/23/2005 9:29:50 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO - The Bay Bridge will get a fancy design after all, but the region's motorists will get stuck with paying most of the span's $3.7 billion in cost overruns, under a legislative deal reached Thursday night.
The accord calls for bridge tolls on all state-owned Bay Area spans to jump from $3 to $4 beginning Jan. 1, 2007 and the state to kick in $630 million for the project, which has been saddled with delays and escalating prices since its inception seven years ago.
No further toll increases are planned. Rather, the balance of the $6.3 billion estimated tab of Bay Bridge's new eastern span will be covered by refinancing toll debt. That is expected to generate another $500 million.
In addition, any future cost overruns to build the suspension span must be covered by bridge tolls.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, signed off on the agreement shortly after 6 p.m. today, according to a source familiar with the talks. It still must be approved by the state Legislature.
The deal drew mixed reaction from Bay Area transportation officials and lawmakers, who said they are relieved construction can move forward but had hoped the state would pay a greater portion of the bridge's cost. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2011.
"I think it would be a really good thing, and it's way past time," said Mark DeSaulnier, a Contra Costa County supervisor and member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He said he had yet to be briefed on the plan but called it "good news."
The agreement, should it hold up, would end 10 months of contentious negotiations between the Schwarzenegger administration and Bay Area legislators. At issue was whether to streamline the design and how to divide the new costs between the area's toll payers and the state.
The Republican governor shocked the region's lawmakers last August when his administration announced the bridge's price tag, previously anticipated to be $2.6 billion, had nearly doubled. The administration blamed the run-up primarily on the bridge's exotic design -- a self-anchored suspension from a tall tower with sweeping cables that is envisioned as an elegant complement to the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge.
But Bay Area lawmakers pointed to other factors, including poor management by state transportation officials. The state underestimated construction costs and used far more high-cost private engineers than originally forecast, they charged.
Schwarzenegger went on to commission a report by a panel of experts and then to recommend dumping the original design for a skyway -- a highway on stilts. That angered area transportation officials and Bay Area advocates who argued a signature span fit the region's wine-and-cheese image. And because toll payers have been paying for the suspension span since 2001.
Talks between administration officials and top Democrats went nowhere for months, as the bridge's cost continued to rise and a new controversy erupted over whether welds on the first segment of the span were safe. Transportation officials determined the welds met safety standards, despite allegations from workers that the job had been botched because of the push to meet construction deadlines.
Perata and Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, led negotiations with the governor, and conceded from the time they began that higher tolls would be necessary. The only question was when and how much the tolls would climb.
Schwarzenegger pushed the Bay Area to front all the overruns, meaning a $5 toll hike as soon as this year. The region's lawmakers, however, said they wanted the state to cover more overruns right away, thereby allowing a toll hike to be postponed until as late as 2009.
Last summer, the MTC told lawmakers that a toll hike in 2009 would create $1.9 billion through financing and selling bonds. A state contribution of $800 million would be needed right away, MTC officials said.
Under today's agreement, less state money is required because more toll money would be available sooner. A $1 toll hike in 2007 that likely runs for 30 years could provide $2.1 billion by financing and selling bonds.
The bridge is currently forecast to cost $6.3 billion, which includes $800 million in contingencies.
Transportation officials say the self-anchored suspension segment of the project can be bid out and awarded by January, if the deal is passed by June 30.
Art Nicola, a Bay Point resident who said he occasionally drives across the Bay Bridge, applauded the region's legislators for fighting for the more aesthetically pleasing structure.
"Personally, I'd like to see the original suspension span design. The Bay Area is a world class locale and it just doesn't seem right to go on the cheap," Nicola said.
That is for 1 bridge!
I wonder if any Civil Servants are going to get fired for this gross abortion?
Kalifornicate is becoming more unbelievable and unlivable each day..
Sounds mostly fair given the circumstances. I mean, it sucks for the bridge users (REALLY SUCKS for the bridge users that is NOT the Bay Bridge. Being forced to pay for the politician's folley), but, well, the politicans here wanted a fancy bridge, WE are getting it through higher tolls. Sure, the Bridge users get screwed, but hey, not EVERYONE is getting screwed.
Actually, since I don't use the bridge often, not even me and I live here. :-P But for those who use the bridges, too bad. Blame the politicians for it!
$4 to cross the bridge seems a little steep, but I have no problem in the people using the bridge paying for it.
Now what I have a problem with is what they did in my home state of Mass (damn I can't wait till I can afford to move south), they diverted the tolls from the Mass Pike (I-90 which goes West to East) to pay for the big leak which was supposed to improve traffic on I- a North South route, So the people who paid the most for that project get no bennifit from it at all.
Just until we don't care about the public's reaction.
I know I am, and I don't even live there.
That opens a whole new can of worms for the South Bay folks.. who are trying to get it into downtown San Jose, but so far have struck for a number of reasons.
struck out, that is.
cheap. its $9 to cross NYC bridges now.
From my understanding about the big ripoff, even WE paid for part of it (money from the Federal government).
At least in this case, the cost overruns will be paid for by the people using the bridges. And for $4, steep? Yeah. But from what I've heard, compared to NY tolls, it's still cheaper (heard they are up to $6 there for at least some of the bridges).
Anyone who tries to drive the Bay area deserves the headache they've brought upon themselves.
Well, there you go! Our $4 doesn't look so bad now.
After 35 years of collecting tolls they finally stopped charging to cross the Coronado Bridge in San Diego. But it's paid for.
What does it cost to cross the GG. I used it in March but don't remember the fare...
I heard that also. And who do we have to blame? The good senators from Mass, both Kerry & Kennedy.
Trate for two-axle vehicles with cash to cross the GG is $5 and $4 with FasTrak.
$4 if ya have Fastrak, the electronic gadget.
I thought it was five. I think it opened in 1938 and has been paid for several times but the thugs running the bay area are using the tolls for their own slush funds...