A Bay Area lawmaker says a controversial $20 million incentive package is just one symptom of a larger problem when it comes to the delay-plagued Bay Bridge construction project.

The old and new eastern spans of the Bay Bridge. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
The old and new eastern spans of the Bay Bridge. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Democrat Mark DeSaulnier chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. He’s been a major critic of the decades-long odyssey to build a new eastern Bay Bridge span. “By any simple measurement, the fact that it’s (5) times over what it was supposed to cost and it’s 10 years late, it’s been a failure,” he said. “So we need to go back and learn from that. We need to hold people accountable.”

The state’s contract with the American Bridge Co. and Fluor Corp. put the contractors in line for a $20 million bonus if the bridge is ready by Labor Day weekend. The San Francisco Chronicle outlined the agreement earlier this week, raising concerns the companies will receive a major payout, despite the anchor bolt failures that threatened to delay the opening until December.

The agreement has been public for several months, and DeSaulnier says he’s been assured that the cracked bolts will be factored into the equation when Caltrans decides how much money to pay out. “There’s already been legal filings against the contractor because of the failure of the bolts and the failure of the oversight,” said the Concord lawmaker. “So there is a process within the contract to resolve these disputes.”

DeSaulnier said the Transportation and Housing Committee will launch an investigation into the project later this year.

Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee Chair Steve Heminger outlined the bonus agreement in a letter to DeSaulnier and other lawmakers earlier this year. Read it below:

Note: this post has been updated to reflect the accurate cost of the Bay Bridge construction project.


Scott Detrow

Sacramento bureau chief Scott Detrow covers state government, politics and policy for KQED News and its statewide news program, The California Report.

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