The rebuilt Bay Bridge that connects Oakland and San Francisco is about to be officially reopened with a $5 million party. Yes, you read correctly — $5 million. The bridge came apart in the big 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when an upper deck of the eastern span collapsed on a lower deck. The bridge was closed for a month.
Reconstruction of the eastern span was begun in 2002, and is finished for all practical purposes. The western span has been retrofitted to make it more earthquake resistant.
The original bridge took three years to build; the “fix” has taken a decade.
Here’s my question: What’s to celebrate that justifies the spending of $5 million?
I guess they figure that since the bridge is years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, what’s another $5 million? It will come out of toll fees anyway.
Seeing how the reconstruction of the Bay Bridge went — delays, cost overruns, money spent for parties — one can only imagine what will happen when work starts on the high-speed rail system, still scheduled to start in Madera County. Will it be done in the estimated 15 years, or will it take 24 or even 36 years to complete? For that matter, will it ever be completed, or will it always be under construction, like the Bay Bridge has been almost since it first opened in 1936?
Bridges, railroads and highways are always under construction to some extent, for the initial building, for maintenance, for expansion or for repair. That is the nature of public works. We’re seeing a lot of such work this year in Madera. We’ll no doubt see much more when rail construction begins — if it ever does.
But let’s hope the money spent goes into the work, and not into parties.