Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ballooning Budget to Build Bay Bridge

Today at 9:00 AM. the California State Auditor released a report on Caltrans’ handling of the east span of the Bay Bridge's reconstruction. The auditor’s report reveals a number of reasons for the unexpected escalation in cost:
- Caltrans did not create a comprehensive risk management plan for the East Span, and lacked processes to identify, track, and quantify risks throughout this project's life.

- Caltrans' cost update for the August 2004 report to the Legislature was its first program-wide update of cost estimates since April 2001.

- Caltrans failed to disclose information to the Legislature according to the law's regular reporting schedule and disclosed huge cost overruns long after it should have been aware of them.

- In November 2003, Caltrans' financial plan update to the Federal Highway Administration did not reveal the probable extent of estimated program costs. At that time, based on internal reports, Caltrans should have known that the program was over budget.

As you probably know, the cost of rebuilding the east span of the Bay Bridge has ballooned from $1.3 billion in 1997 to an estimated $5.1 billion in July 2004. Over the next several months, my colleagues and I will ask some tough questions as we review the Governor’s plan for the “freeway on stilts proposal” and the state audit. If you are interested in reading the audit report for yourself, it is available at

I would love to hear what you think. Which bridge design should the Legislature approve – the “signature” self-anchored suspension or the “freeway on stilts”? Who should pay for the cost overruns? Would you support a one-dollar toll increase on all of the Bay Area’s bridges?

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