|SUSPENDED Bay Bridge east span awaits additional funding and decision on a single bid that came in well over engineers estimate. (Photo courtesy of newbaybridge.org)|
In a long-awaited report published Aug. 16, the California Dept. of Transportation warns of a year-long delay and more cost increases unless the legislature approves additional funding for the spans self-anchored cable suspension bridge. The report estimates that the entire east spans cost has nearly doubled, from $2.6 billion to $5.13 billion, since 2001.
The sole bidder, a joint venture of American Bridge Co., Coraopolis, Pa., Nippon Steel Bridge, Tokyo, and Fluor Enterprises, Aliso Viejo, Calif., submitted a $1.4-billion bid, nearly double Caltrans $740-million estimate (ENR 6/7 p. 11).
That bid expires Sept. 30, which marks an extension granted by contractors to the 60 days allowed for Caltrans to accept or reject a bid. "You cant award the contract unless you have identified funding," says Robert Oakes, spokesman for state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D), transportation committee chair. "If we dont get something hammered out, were just going to have to rebid the contract."
Some have blamed the spans innovative design and stringent seismic requirements for increasing costs, but drastic changes are impractical, Oakes says. "The design we have is what we have. Its too late to talk about going back," he says.
The funding shortfall marks a crossroads in the Bay Bridge project. A joint venture of Kiewit Pacific Co., FCI Constructors Inc. and Manson Construction Co. holds the main construction contract for the suspension spans $294-million foundations. They are 55% complete. Peter Kiewit Sons Inc., with Skanska Inc., was interested in the suspension bridge but never submitted a bid. Another major portion of the east span, the $1.5-billion concrete viaduct dubbed the Skyway, is about 55% complete.
Caltrans report, which surveys the retrofit program for all seven of the states toll bridges, cites a complex set of factors that have contributed to the cost increases on the East Span. Post-9/11 changes in the insurance and bonding markets, combined with the size of the projects, "reduced available bidders and resulted in a limited number of joint ventures capable of bidding these projects," the report states.
Multiple Bay Area toll bridge projects reduced contractor capacity and limited access to key marine equipment, the report adds. Caltrans also notes that costs were increased by pushing back the completion date from 2007 to 2011, an extension requested by contractors to handle the complex design. In the past two years, cost escalation has exceeded 10 to 15%, with some materials doubling in price.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has responded by proposing to shift financial responsibility from Caltrans to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, an Oakland-based regional agency. He suggests dedicating a new $3 local bridge toll recently approved by voters to pay for the cost increases.
Oakes disapprovingly calls Schwarzeneggers proposal "a non-starter, particularly when he has targeted a toll increase that Bay Area voters [approved] on their own to build projects....Its a state highway. Its an Interstate highway and the state has always paid a share." Adds MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler: "Obviously the governor is starting to walk away from this part of the state highway system, and we disagree with that."
Funding options include a stop-gap measure that would increase the suspension spans budget and defer the remaining shortfall to the next legislative session. Also on the table is transfer-
ring toll-setting powers to MTC, says Oakes. Even these measures will fail to address the underlying problem. Says Rentschler: "As the population has doubled...the infrastructure has not doubled with it.alifornia officials now appear likely to favor accepting a single $1.4-billion bid submitted in May for a suspension bridge that is a signature element of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges east span. But state legislators faced a looming deadline last week to close a $660-budget shortfall so that the state can beat a Sept. 30 deadline for accepting the bid.