When completed, the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be not only the most complex engineering feat in California history, but also the most expensive, with a cost never subjected to public scrutiny.
Although today’s price tag stands at $6.3 billion, the figure accounts for only salaries and hard materials—things like concrete and steel and cranes. When all is said and done, the new Bay Bridge will wind up costing tax- and toll-payers more than $12 billion—a figure that leaves even the officials in charge “staggered.”
Much of the difference comes from interest and other financing charges—money that commuters will be paying off until at least 2049. Little attention has been paid to billions of dollars not included in the direct construction cost projections published in glossy public reports.
Why the price has skyrocketed is a tale of politics, bureaucratic bumbling, and unforeseen construction problems—all classic ingredients of California public works projects. It is a tale of obscure but powerful agencies, legislative bickering, and four successive governors grappling with a project so massive and complex that one consultant suggested the human mind might be unable to grasp, or accept, “the magnitude of the undertaking and the time and resources required to complete it.”
:::: Unparalled Bridge, Unprecedented Cost ::::
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