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A Look Back: How SF Bay Bridge Spiraled to Over $6.5 Billion ($13 Billion with Interest?)

As Steve Heminger, the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced his retirement for next year, it’s important to look at one of the largest transportation related boondoggles in the United States over the last 3-5 decades.

There is an excellent Oct. 13, 2015 citylab article entitled:

From $250 Million to $6.5 Billion: The Bay Bridge Cost Overrun

 

The new self-anchored suspension (SAS) eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge is seen from inside a vehicle in Oakland, California September 3, 2013. The largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world opened before Tuesday morning’s rush hour across San Francisco Bay, six years behind schedule and five times over budget. A windshield reflection is seen at right. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES – Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS CONSTRUCTION) – RTX135ZR

The initial estimate to retrofit both the western and eastern spans of $250 million was ridiculously low…  as was the estimate to replace the eastern span for approximately $1.5 Billion was utterly ridiculous. But an estimate of $1 Billion to retrofit may have been possible if it was done at the time as the retrofit of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was retrofitted more than a decade later for approximately $1 Billion.

The largest problem with the new eastern span:
It is not just the cost or the quality of the bridge from China or the fact that American jobs could have built it for arguably the same cost.
It is the fact that the former SF Bay Bridge used to have cars only on the top and trains and buses on the lower level. But if one ever wanted to put trains back on the SF Bay Bridge, it is unlikely to be possible on the eastern span as the load capacity is only 1/3 of the original eastern span of the SF Bay Bridge.

Why is this important? Because BART keeps talking about a second Transbay Tube for BART and the initial costs are for $20 Billion!
People behind the scenes means that the bloated costs will probably push it to $30-50 Billion!