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New bridge plan rumor: No tower

December 10, 2004 Reposted from the Oakland Tribune
  By Sean Holstege

A long-awaited Caltrans decision about how the new Bay Bridge should look comes today amid rumors that it will feature no tower after all.

Three months of internal debate have left Caltrans where it started in August: plans to build a San Mateo Bridge-style skyway from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.

Rumors of the decision swirled around the Capitol and the East Bay all day Thursday. Caltrans believes by scrapping the current plan for a self-anchored suspension tower it can save taxpayers up to $500 million.

A full announcement is expected today. It comes after the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency turned to a series of secret panels to decide how and whether to redesign the replacement bridge. Costs on the bridge have ballooned from $1.3 billion to $5.1 billion in six years.

Nothing can happen without the Legislature's approval.

A similar proposal by the Schwarzenegger administration in the summer caused a bitter, last-minute legislative feud, which ended in stalemate in August.

For weeks a cable-stayed design was the leading candidate.

"I don't know what they're going to do tomorrow. I've heard rumors all day long," said Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler late Thurs day.

"All I can say honestly is rumors have been flying around because there has been no legislative involvement," said Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, referring to the unusual secrecy surrounding the deliberations.

"The question is: Is it going to save significant money and can it be done speedily without being held up by permits? Will it be something built for a couple of generations or will it be shoddy?"

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