Commentary: Building (Bay) Bridges

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 1, 2005

Governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature have been at logger heads for months now on how to pay for the $3.7 billion dollars in cost over runs to retrofit the San Francisco Bay Bridge for earthquake safety. The governor wanted bridge users to pay the total bill. Bay area legislators wanted the state to pay.

Under the compromise reached, both will pay. Tolls on all seven state-owned bridges that cross the San Francisco Bay will be increased from three to four dollars beginning Jan. 1, 2007. Tolls will finance two-thirds of the overrun bill. The state will chip in the remainder.

That's fair. Bridges, like the state's freeways, benefit not just the people who use them every day but the businesses and general public who rely on the goods, services, friends and families who cross those bridges.

The deal also allows the rebuilt bridge to keep its distinctive needle tower design. That’s good, too. It would have cost even more for a redesign and new bids and permits. And who says just because the public builds something, it has to be ugly?

The Bay Bridge agreement is a good compromise. Who knows? With it as a model, maybe legislators and the governor can reach a deal on the budget.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.