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TRANSACTIONS NEWSLETTER ONLINE

September/October 2005

Funding Agreement Allows East Span Construction to Move Forward

Deal Retains Distinctive Design For New Landmark

State Senator 
  Tom Torlakson, chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, Assemblyman
   Guy Houston and state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
  look on as Governor Schwarzenegger addresses the crowd.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

With the existing East Span in the background, the architects of the bridge funding deal gather at the bill signing ceremony in Oakland. State Senator Tom Torlakson (at far left, D-Antioch), chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, Assemblyman Guy Houston (middle, R-Livermore) and state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (at far right, D-Oakland) look on as Governor Schwarzenegger addresses the crowd. (Photo: John Decker)

The governor shakes hands with MTC Chair Jon Rubin
  as Assemblyman Guy Houston and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) look
  on

The governor shakes hands with MTC Chair Jon Rubin (at far right) as Assemblyman Guy Houston and Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) look on.

At long last, and after nearly a year of delay, the Schwarzenegger Administration and state lawmakers approved a financing plan to complete construction on the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The governor signed Assembly Bill 144 by Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) on July 18 at an Oakland location overlooking the bridge. The measure will allow construction to move forward on the landmark single tower, self-anchored suspension (SAS) span that will be the centerpiece of the new East Span.

Progress on the tower portion of the bridge stalled in mid-2004 when the lone construction proposal came in over budget, prompting state officials to rethink the design.

“The people of the Bay Area need a new bridge and they deserve the design they have chosen and been paying for,” said Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), who led the Bay Area delegation in negotiations with the governor.

The agreement obligates $630 million in additional state funds — including $300 million for the demolition of the old, seismically weak span — toward a $3.6 billion funding agreement to complete the Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program. The deal also calls for raising bridge tolls on the Bay Area’s state-owned bridges by $1 (to $4 for autos) starting January 1, 2007.

“This is an equitable package that balances state funds with local contributions in the form of a toll hike. Most importantly it offers the fastest path to seismic safety,” said Randy Rentschler, MTC’s director of Legislation and Public Affairs.

As an urgency measure that passed the Legislature by a two-thirds margin, AB 144 went into immediate effect. The bill assigns broader oversight duties to MTC in its role as the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA). One of BATA’s first actions under this new mantle was to release revised bid documents for the SAS portion, with proposals due in six months. To bring the price down and spur more interest among construction firms, BATA agreed to remove the preference for domestic steel and added contractor incentives.

A San Francisco Chronicle editorial summarized the compromise aptly: “No one likes higher tolls, but $4 will seem like a bargain if thousands of cars are on a solidly rebuilt Bay Bridge when the next big quake hits the region.”
— Karin Betts


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