Skip to comments.CA: Lawmakers grill Caltrans officials over troubled Bay Bridge
Posted on 01/26/2005 5:56:53 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - Lawmakers grilled state transportation officials Wednesday over efforts to replace the seismically unsound eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, a multibillion-dollar project that has been plagued by delays, cost overruns and political infighting.
Sunne Wright McPeak, secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and Will Kempton, director of the California Department of Transportation, faced intense questioning about why costs for the Bay Bridge project have nearly doubled and why Caltrans officials waited so long to notify lawmakers.
"People expect accountability," Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said at the Senate Transportation Committee hearing. "We're not going to get past all of this if people don't own a piece of it."
Kempton, who was named Caltrans director in November, acknowledged that "mistakes were made," but attributed some cost increases to the complexity of the bridge design and the rising cost of steel, concrete and insurance.
"I would in no way characterize this as gross mismanagement," Kempton said. "When you're dealing with a structure of this complexity, there are just a lot of unknowns."
The Schwarzenegger administration and San Francisco Bay area officials are quarreling over what kind of replacement span should be built and who should pay for it. Wednesday's hearing and another scheduled for Tuesday will set the stage for negotiations between the administration and the Legislature.
At issue is the 2,100-foot segment of the bridge's eastern span, which will connect Yerba Buena Island with the 1.5-mile-long concrete skyway under construction.
Due to escalating costs, the administration wants to abandon the approved design - a single-tower suspension bridge - in favor of a towerless, concrete skyway. Caltrans officials say the plainer design could save between $300 million and $400 million and be completed between 2011 and 2012.
But Bay Area lawmakers are skeptical that the skyway design would save money. According to a report released Monday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, the skyway could end up costing more than the suspension bridge if it runs into design and environmental problems.
State leaders began pursuing a replacement for the Bay Bridge's eastern span after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed a portion of the bridge, which carries about 275,000 vehicles daily between San Francisco and Oakland.
Since 2001, when the Legislature approved the suspension design, cost estimates have ballooned from $2.6 billion to $5.1 billion for the eastern span.
During Wednesday's hearing, senators questioned State Auditor Elaine Howe about a study she released in December that criticizes Caltrans for failing to adequately manage and report the project's spiraling costs. She said Caltrans officials should have known about the cost increases as early as November 2003 but did not notify the Legislature until August 2004.
Responding to the auditor's testimony, Kempton and McPeak said they didn't believe that Caltrans was to blame for the project's delays and cost overruns, but said they would accept the auditor's recommendations to improve management of the agency and the Bay Bridge.
"We are serious about changing the culture of this department," Kempton said.
McPeak said Caltrans didn't know about the cost increases until late May, when the lone bid for the suspension bridge came in at $1.5 billion, double the $740 million originally budgeted.
During the hearing, Sen. Tom Torlakson, the committee's chair, held up what he said was a Caltrans report from April 2004. It said costs were exceeding estimates, but McPeak and Kempton said they had never seen that report.
On Tuesday, the committee will hold another hearing to look into Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to replace the suspension design and with a concrete skyway, a plan that Bay Area lawmakers are resisting.
"It's up to the governor, the secretary and the Caltrans director to prove next week that they can really save a lot of money or do it faster or do it safer," said Torlakson, D-Antioch. "Our goal is to have the safest bridge possible in the shortest time frame possible."
damned politicians can't even get together on a frigging bridge without finger pointing and giving us more BS....
Have the enviornmentalist pay for it.
no kidding, I spend alot of time defending CA here cause most people don't have a clue that this state transcends politics most of the time and is a hell of alot more than what the silly media say.......and then of course I see things like this and just wonder where my next drink is coming from.............
Let the unions donate the bridge.
IF FR is driving ya to drink... I feeel your pain. :-)
I'm not a native but have been here long enough to remember when the adults ran the state and not the adolescents.
You have to read these things carefully.
Oops forgot the list.
Hope they use good barbecue sauce.
FR isn't driving me to drink.....it is the idiot lawmakers who run around fingerpointing like immature little kids
LOL.. No problem, T'was my error in not stating instead that a byproduct of FR thread ingestion is political indigestion..
Everybody has to get their faces on the news and for their supporters as being on top of the situation. Yet not one of them is willing to say, I screwed up. Because we live in a No Fault political environment, I suspect.
Your designated driver is (c8
The Gub sure has picked some doozies for department heads.
They almost make Mary Contreras Sweet, the previous CalTrans dept head, look efficient.
God is my designated driver
Which are entirely up to the complicit offals doing the "study."
Arnold runs square into the same type of corruption he abets. How fitting.
I don't suppose they could possibly do without the bike lanes for the .05% of the population that would actually use them.
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