The California Transportation Commission is scheduled to vote next Wednesday, May 19 on a proposal to convert the second phase of the Doyle Drive replacement project into a public-private partnership.

And guess who’s up in arms about this proposal. Yes, the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG), all 13,000 of them. But this time, though its claims are somewhat hysterical, it may be right.

In February, the CTC, along with its project partner the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, released a study/analysis that concluded that additional funding for the project might be iffy down the line. They concluded that a P3 could be the answer and would hold a hearing to discuss and possibly vote on proceeding.

PECG jumped into the fray, sending out press releases alerting the public and even running one-minute radio ads declaring that the P3 would “abandon competitive bidding and doubles the cost of the project,” “will cost the Bay Area 15,000 jobs,” “piles millions of dollars in new debt on California taxpayers” and “takes money away from other transportation projects for the next 30 years.”

The competitive bidding aspect that PECG mentions makes sense (see my news story online about how Caltrans has saved $2.4 billion over the last four years because of the recession, competition and lower-than-estimated bids).

The radio ads can be heard on the PECG website.

The Presidio Parkway Project is the replacement for Doyle Drive, the south approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction has already started on the competitively bid contracts 1 to 4 (phase one). Winning bidders include Ghilotti Bros., C.C. Myers and
R&L Brosamer Inc.

The CTC’s Presidio Parkway (which is what Doyle Drive will be called upon completion) Public Private Partnership Project (or P6 – just kidding) is seeing problems with fund availability in fiscal year 2012-2013, specifically the Milestone Payments, which will not be used for Availability Payments. It says APs therefore would be paid from available non-state resources and from the State Highway Account, subject to (oh no) legislative appropriations. We’re looking at in the neighborhood of $170 million.

Anyway, you can look over the study and documents here.

Two things jumped out at me when I heard about the P3 proposal. One, we ran a San Diego Business Journal news piece about a week or so ago in the News Wire section of our website entitled “South Bay Expressway Builders File for Bankruptcy.” You might recall that his beautiful $635-million project was also a P3, comprised of a 10-mi toll road extension of Route 125 from Spring Valley in Chula Vista to the U.S.-Mexico border. The private owners were South Bay Expressway L.P. and general partner California Transportation Ventures Inc. What caused the Chapter 11 filing was, according to the owners, the bad economy and some “litigation” issues.

Now how the Presidio Parkway toll would be collected to pay for maintenance and operations will need to be addressed (an added fee at the Golden Gate Bridge toll station?), but you can bet that if a big fat fee is implemented, drivers will find a way around it (in this case, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge). Any projections of toll income could be thrown out the door.

And second, why not use a design-build method for this project? For the first time in the state, the CTC in April authorized two regional projects in Los Angeles and Riverside to move forward via design-build. As Caltrans director Randy Iwasaki said at the time, “Both projects are excellent design-build procurement candidates that have the potential for achieving improved delivery efficiency and significant job creation.”

If the state, county and city are looking for “efficiency” on the parkway project, this could be an option.