Bridge Building Blow Out
The cost of the new Martinez Bridge has
swollen to over $1 billion dollars, due to fish mitigation,
weak sub-structure rock, and building material cost
increases. This raised the estimates from a 2001 view, which
priced the bridge at $652 million. To pay for the increased
costs, its looks as if Caltrans will have to reach into the
RM-2 funds and grab some $400 million that might have been
spent on other transit relief projects. But that blow out is
peanuts compared to the new Oakland Bay Bridge, which
Caltrans had hoped would be in the $740 million range.
When the bids were opened on May 27, there
was just one bidder, a consortium that included the American
Bridge Company. Per the bidding rules, there were two bids,
one with domestic and the other with foreign steel. The
foreign steel option came in at $1,398,776,550 and the
domestic steel was $1,803,771,050. So a $740 million
self-anchored suspension bridge will now be $1.8 billion
project, before cost over runs.
So how is this possible? Bay Crossings
asked a local builder why these projects were getting so
expensive. He declined to give his name, saying, “I’ll just
sound like a whiner,” but he did give some fairly startling
facts. Rebar, a basic metal component for concrete
construction was selling for 8 cents a foot last year and
now goes for 40 cents a foot. He expects it to hit a dollar
and noted the big guys are starting to hoard this stuff.
OSB Plywood (structural grade) has
increased from $11 to $27 while regular plywood is up about
50 percent and steel of any kind is hard to get. So our
builder was not at all surprised by the higher bridge costs.
And Caltrans shouldn’t be either, as their own Price Index
for Selected Highway Construction Projects for the quarter
ending March 31st is up 140.7 percent.
So Bay Crossings asked our builder to
speculate on why the basic building material cost was so
high. He gave two reasons, suggesting that the rebuilding of
Iraq was consuming a lot of material, as was the huge
economic growth in China, which also has been blamed for
high oil prices, as their economy consumes more energy.
Whatever the cause, Bay Area residents will end up paying a
lot more to have things built. And the bigger it is, the
more they will pay.
You can contact Guy Span at firstname.lastname@example.org.