An initial major segment, the Skyway, used federal funds.

In 2003, the self-anchored suspension-bridge portion of the Bay Bridge was advertised with a "Buy America" requirement. Bidders were required to submit two estimates: one using U.S. steel and the other with non-U.S. steel.

But only one bid came in, proposing $1.8 billion using U.S. steel and $1.4 billion with foreign steel, Will Kempton, then-director of Caltrans, said in prepared testimony for a 2007 U.S. House of Representatives highways-and-transit subcommittee hearing. Kempton added, "[Caltrans] was unable to award the contract as the costs for both alternatives were well in excess of available funding.”

In 2005, additional non-federal funding was identified for the project, and officials decided to carry out the self-anchored suspension bridge without a "Buy America" requirement, according to Kempton.

Ney says the program’s other projects were “de-federalized” and financed with state funds and local and regional funds from tolls.

When the contract was rebid, Caltrans received two proposals, Kempton said. The winner was American Bridge Co., which bid $1.4 billion. He said the steel was to be fabricated in China, Korea, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Ney says, “It wasn’t just cost … certainly cost is important, but it was capacity—it was the ability to be able to fabricate that much large structural steel in the amount of time we had for the contract.” He said another requirement was a water port from which to ship the steel because the steel needed to be transported to the bridge by water.

Looking at the entire bridge project, Ney said, “At the end of the day, what we ended up with is over 77% of the steel in the new Bay Bridge is domestically fabricated.”

But that contract drew blasts of criticism from organizations like AISI. Thomas J. Gibson, AISI president and CEO, says his group was happy to see the "Buy America" "segmentation" change included in MAP-21’s highway title. He says, “That … in effect should stop repeats of the gymnastics California went through to try to procure the fabricated steel for that bridge from the Chinese.”