Outraged over a sudden multibillion-dollar increase in cost estimates to retrofit the Bay Bridge, state Sen. Tom Torlakson has called a senate hearing in Oakland to investigate the matter.
Originally, Caltrans said Bay Bridge retrofits, including replacing its eastern span, would cost $1.3 billion. But in a report released April 6, the agency doubled that estimate to $2.6 billion.
The skyrocketing figures have upset a number of East Bay legislators, including Torlakson, D-Antioch, and Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland. In response, the senators have called a special bi-committee hearing tomorrow in Oakland to look into the overruns.
Torlakson is chair of the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Infrastructure, and Perata is chair of the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation.
“Bay area drivers deserve an explanation, because they are helping pay for this work with bridge tolls,” Torlakson said Thursday.
There have been reports that the $2 bridge toll, which was set to expire in 2007, could be made permanent to cover the overruns.
On Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said the increase “proves my point that they should have had a world-class design, like the Golden Gate Bridge, so (the cost) would have been worth it.”
The Bay Bridge has required retrofits, including the rebuilding of its eastern span, since it was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. But costs for the fix have drifted steadily upward due to a number of planning delays, including disputes over design and a feud between Caltrans and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown over where on Yerba Buena Island the eastern span should be situated.
That argument was settled in October 2000, when the U.S. Department of Transportation took the disputed piece of the island from the U.S. Navy, which owned the land, and gave it to the state of California.
The Senate Select Committees Hearing on Toll Bridge Cost Overruns will be held Monday, April 16, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the Elihu Harris State Building Auditorium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland.