Caltrans may be able to take lower bid for Bay Bridge State agency
says it can use foreign steel to build span, although that's still
double the original construction cost estimate
Caltrans officials believe they'll be able to accept a bid using foreign
steel -- and saving $500 million -- for the new Bay Bridge's signature
single-tower suspension span, they said Thursday.
That would cut the cost
of the 1,860-foot span -- the western portion of the new 2.2-mile
eastern part of the Bay Bridge that connects Oakland with Yerba
Buena Island -- to $1.4 billion. But that bid is still twice what
Caltrans estimated and still breaks the budget for the bridge project.
were stunned Wednesday when the only bids on the new suspension
span, both from a joint venture of American Bridge, Nippon Steel
Bridge and Fluor Enterprises, came in at $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion,
the latter more than a billion over estimate.
Because the bridge project
is subject to federal Buy America requirements, the contractor was
allowed to submit two bids -- one using only steel from U.S. firms,
one using foreign steel. Under the policy, the foreign steel bid
must be at least 25 percent less than the domestic steel bid for
it to be accepted.
On Wednesday, when the
bid was opened in a Caltrans basement in Sacramento, it appeared
that the agency would have to go with the $1.8 billion domestic
steel bid, unless it chose to reject the bid and start over.
But transportation officials
said Thursday that the way the cost differential is calculated would
allow the state Department of Transportation to take the lower bid
-- and use foreign steel.
"The way everyone
thought it works apparently isn't,'' said Randy Rentschler, spokesman
for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a partner with Caltrans
in building the new Bay Bridge.
Dan McElhinney, Caltrans
deputy district director, said that as long as the bid is deemed
"responsive and responsible" and in tune with market conditions,
Caltrans is free to use the foreign steel bid.
Now, the real issue is
whether Caltrans will accept the bid, and if so, how the state would
pay for the new bridge with a total cost estimated at $3.5 billion.
Caltrans has said it
will take the next two months to carefully study the bid, talk to
the contractor about the reason for the high costs and find out
why other contractors failed to bid on the span. Caltrans could
then either accept the bid or reject it and seek new bids.