A bridge too late and costly

  • Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013 12:01 a.m.

The July 2005 opening of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge Jr. linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant was accompanied by a grand, justified celebration.

Last Monday’s opening of the new eastern half of the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco to Oakland was not.

Why the difference?

Our Ravenel Bridge was completed on time and under budget for $632 million.

Their Bay Bridge span was finished six years behind schedule and more than $5 billion over budget at a total cost of $6.4 billion.

So it was no surprise to learn that the bridge-span opening in California “was marked with a relatively low-key event that did not even include the governor.”

That governor is Jerry Brown, who as mayor of Oakland was a loud advocate for the span. Yet he chose to spend Labor Day Weekend at his wife’s family reunion in Michigan rather than show up to see the finished product that finally replaced the span that lost a large piece to the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle, in a recent column on our Commentary page, mocked Gov. Brown’s meddling in the bridge’s design, writing: “I am sure his absence has nothing to do with the fact that the replacement span isn’t open for traffic yet — and already it needs a retrofit.”

She added: “In March, 32 of 96 key galvanized steel rods cracked after they were tightened. They cannot be replaced because they’ve been encased in concrete for years. Engineers have come up with a plan to put steel ‘saddles’ around the bad bolts at an expected cost of $23 million.”

Well-informed critics, including Ms. Saunders, blame most of the project’s problems on politicians, including Mr. Brown.

And as James Ghielmetti, a member of the California Transportation Commission, said at last week’s opening ceremony: “California must do a better job going forward on all of our public works projects.”

Here on our coast, however, it’s reassuring to know that our eight-year-old 2.5-mile bridge cost much less, and took far less time to build, than California’s new 2.2-mile bridge span.

And if you still haven’t checked out the glorious view from our bridge’s pedestrian/bike lane, what are you waiting for?

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