When completed, the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will be not only the most complex engineering feat in California history, but also the most expensive, with a cost never subjected to public scrutiny. Although today’s price tag stands at $6.3 billion, the figure accounts for only salaries and hard materials—things like concrete and steel and cranes. When all is said and done, the new Bay Bridge will wind up costing tax- and toll-payers more than $12 billion—a figure that leaves even the officials in charge “staggered.”
Overall cost estimates have been presented to the public in annual reports and press briefings, but the cost of interest on money borrowed to pay for construction has not been included.
The Bay Area Toll Authority has the unique power to raise bridge tolls without the Legislature’s approval, which it has done repeatedly to pay off the $6.9 billion bond debt amassed so far to build the new Bay Bridge and upgrade six other spans. That makes BATA particularly attractive to Wall Street, which has pocketed more than $122 million in fees to arrange the borrowing.