Design. Self-anchored suspension bridge design
may be too costly to build. (Photo courtesy of newbaybridge.org)
Over the next few
months, California faces a fateful choice in rebuilding the
massive San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Officials on Sept.
30 rejected the sole $1.4-billion bid for the projects
signature component because it came in nearly double the states
estimate and now must decide whether to rebid the contract
or scrap design of the bridges complex centerpiece,
a self-anchored suspension span (SAS). It has contributed
to a total cost estimate of $5.1 billion, nearly double 2001
figures. Industry sources question the veracity of the states
construction estimate and worry that the bridges more
than decade-long procurement process could set a precedent
for political meddling and bad procurement.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
announced the long-awaited decision to pass on the $1.4-billion
bid submitted last spring by a joint venture of American Bridge
Co., Coraopolis, Pa.; Japans Nippon Steel Bridge; and
Fluor Enterprises, Aliso Viejo, Calif. The bid came in at
twice the states estimate of $780 million. The rejection
"was something of a surprise," says Robert Oakes,
spokesman for Sen. Tom Torlakson (D), chairman of the state
senates transportation committee.
When the legislature adjourned
Sept. 30 without approving a financial plan to cover the financing
gap, state officials felt compelled to decline the bid because
"we dont have enough information" to meet
key goalsdelivering a seismically safe bridge for best
value by the 2011-2012 target date, says Sunne Wright McPeak,
California secretary of business, transportation and housing.
The new bridge would replace the existing East Span that extends
from the Oakland side of the bay to Yerba Buena Island.
Rejection of the bid marks an apparent
shift in direction from just two months ago when the state
was leaning toward accepting the American Bridge teams
bid and the legislature was focused on finding a way to pay
for the increases (ENR 8/30-9/6 p. 14).
In August, a California Dept. of
Transportation report predicted that rebidding "may result
in a one-year schedule delay and significant escalation costs."
Only days before the announcement, Caltrans sources suggested
that the agency would likely ask the American Bridge team
for an extension. In a report submitted last month to a regional
agency that manages Bay Area transportation, locally based
Bechtel Group Inc., also recommended taking the bid. It predicted
that not doing so would add up to four years and $310 million
to the bridges cost. "We cant afford to start
from scratch," said Rod McMillan, the Metropolitan Transportation
Commissions manager of bridge and highway operations.
Delay. Officials hope Bay Bridge reconstruction
will still be able to beat the next quake.
But Schwarzenegger unveiled a study
by a blue-ribbon "independent review" team headed
by Thomas R. Warne, former head of the Utah Dept. of Transportation
that opted for a new approach. "Our recommendation is
to develop a rebid document that would enhance the one on
the street, or redesign the bridge, possibly as a cable-stayed
span," he says.
The SAS design by San Francisco-based
T.Y. Lin International "is a very complex bridge,"
says Warne. "The components are very difficult to make
and theres a lot of risk." While the designs
dramatic aesthetics won out in a very lengthy and politically
charged competition in the late 1990s, Warne says there are
only 20 SAS bridges in the world, "and there is little
experience in building it." Officials of T.Y. Lin did
not return calls for comment, but one source says, "this
has to be rather embarrassing for them."
For a possible cable-stayed alternative,
the schedule impact of additional environmental review and
permit modification is the variable that "really needs
to be better understood," McPeak says. While Warne estimates
the new design could...