Only unelected bureaucratic idiots would even think of celebrating a failure with a $5.6 million party. As you probably know, that's exactly what the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is planning to do in opening the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
Why do I call this project a failure? After all, the bridge will apparently be completed by Labor Day this year. Let me count the ways.
First, let's look at the cost overrun. Originally estimated to cost $1.1 billion, Caltrans is now saying, it will be $6.3 billion, about $5 billion over estimate. Some folks are estimating the total cost will be about $12 billion when all costs and financing charges are included.
And then there is the time frame. The completion is years behind schedule. Construction started in 2002 and was supposed to be completed in 2007. Hopefully it will be finished this year but after the crane fell down recently, who knows?
And there are still some who question the safety of the new structure claiming inadequate testing and certification has been done on the concrete piers.
Caltrans claims everything is peachy keen and don't you worry. I learned a long time ago to put little trust in Caltrans.
The trigger for the initiation of the new bridge effort was the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989. Our politicians expressed fear that we would have another and we should get cracking and either retrofit the existing bridge or build a new one.
Well, get cracking we did. It has only taken 24 years to get the job done. Some kind of emergency, eh?
I haven't seen any support for spending this money on a party other than from MTC itself. Various alternatives have been suggested short of paying anything with toll money. As it stands now, there is a possibility of charging a $4 or $5 toll to walk out on the bridge and corporate sponsorships are also being sought. But my favorite option is to just open the bridge and forget the party.
Many of us feel that the new bridge was unnecessary and some seismic retrofit could have been done to the existing structure. The damage to the bridge was minor when compared to the freeway collapse in Oakland.
But that alternative is past. MTC has billions of the public's money and is willing to spend it willy-nilly on a $5.6 million party to celebrate a failure.
Come on folks, let's just get on with it and open the bridge.
Then Caltrans and its partner in crime MTC can get on with messing up another project somewhere else in the Bay Area.
Ken Hambrick is a resident of Walnut Creek.