We at the National Steel Bridge Alliance would like to take issue that steel is a “key factor in bizarre bidding on San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge suspension span,” as reported in “Way-High Single Bid Stymies State Officials” (ENR 6/7 p. 10).

Let’s assume that the bridge uses all domestic steel and that the price increase for steel since the beginning of the year is 60%. The price of steel plate today averages about 43¢ a pound. A 60% increase means that the price of steel rose 16¢ per pound since the beginning of the year.

The article states the bridge uses 140 million pounds of steel, including falsework. Today, this amount of steel costs about $22.4 million more than at the beginning of the year. This is hardly a key factor compared to the $660 million that the bridge came in over the original $740 million estimate. Actually, it’s about a 3% increase, whereas the article states that the bridge came in at double the estimate, or a 100% increase.

Interestingly, the original single bid on the Woodrow Wilson bridge in Washington, D.C.—another complex, unusual design with high risk for the contractor—came in at about double the engineer’s estimate. On rebid, the subsequent redesign to suit the capabilities of the U.S. domestic steel fabrication industry came in within original budget expectations.

We’ve expressed many times that we think the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge design is unnecessarily difficult and expensive to build. It could still be redesigned more economically with a U.S.-based collaborative effort.

Conn Abnee
Executive Director
National Steel Bridge Alliance