SACRAMENTO -- State legislators were disappointed to hear Monday that the opening of a new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be delayed at least three months, until December, in order to strengthen the structure after the failure of several bolts.
Four state senators from the Bay Area were briefed on the project behind closed doors. Afterward, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who is co-chairman of the Bay Area Legislative Caucus, voiced concern that the bridge project faces new delays after already falling years behind schedule.
DeSaulnier said he was told in 1998 that the project would cost $1.1 billion and be done by 2003.
“It's frustrating to say the least,” DeSaulnier said. “We’re now at $6.3 billion, we’re 10 years late and now we are going to be later still, so we put the driving public at risk for much longer than we wanted.”
“It's always been a race against time to get commuters off the existing eastern span of the Bay Bridge," he added. “We’ve been told over and over again by experts that it's dangerous. If there is another Loma Prieta [earthquake], there will be failure along that bridge, putting people at risk.”
DeSaulnier said he accepts that a delay is needed to make sure the bridge is safe. The retrofit will cost $15 million to build and install, he said.
“I think this is a recognition that they are not able to open the bridge, and be able to do it safely, and still do the retrofit and get that done on time,” he said.
Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), a civil engineer, said he is looking beyond the retrofit to determine what went wrong with the overall project to cause so many problems and delays.
“We really need to take a hard look at the process. Why did these things go wrong?” Cannella told reporters. “We’ve got a lot of other infrastructure to build in the state, and we cannot make the same mistakes twice. There are a lot of glaring problems with this project that we can learn from and not duplicate in the future.”
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said he took the briefing as a “positive” message. “They feel there should be no additional surprises to the project itself,” Leno said of transportation officials.
DeSaulnier agreed a larger review of the project and its problems is needed.
“Obviously, mistakes were made,” he told reporters. “When you define it as a $1.1-billion project when they started and it’s now a $6.3-billion project and its 10 years late and they can’t tell us if it’s safe, much less how safe it is, that’s a failure,” he said.