Setbacks to the Doyle Drive rebuild should come as no surprise to motorists familiar with the delays that plague major Bay Area construction projects.
The project, originally slated to be completed in 2014, is now set to be finished in 2015 — or even 2016 in the worst-case scenario. Financing questions, legal issues and lousy weather have hampered the project, which will transform the seismically unstable southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kome Ajise, a project manager for Caltrans, the state transportation department that is co-leading the rebuild, said completion is now set for October 2015. That will mean extra months of slow traffic between the North Bay and San Francisco.
Mary Currie, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge transit district, said the work has caused periodic bouts of heavy congestion. But, she added, motorist complaints have abated recently, leading her to believe commuters are growing accustomed to the traffic.
Ajise said a lawsuit filed by the Professional Engineers in California Government has been the chief contributor to the setback. Financing commitments could not be secured until it was settled, which happened in November, delaying the financial plan by about a year, Ajise said.
The engineering group had sued because the second phase of the rebuild is being financed by a public-private partnership. The private consortium, Golden Link Partners, has control over construction, but will not receive funding from public agencies until the project passes maintenance tests.
Ajise said a more traditional funding model would not have prevented the delays.
Weather — last winter was unusually rainy — and questions about federal earmarks also caused delays, Ajise said. However, a new funding agreement was recently reached to address those problems.
Still, there is a slim chance the project might not be finished until 2016, said Leroy Saage of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which is leading the rebuild with Caltrans.
A pact to fund a $54 million shortfall still must be approved by the governing boards of the agencies carrying out the project. The quicker that happens — meetings are scheduled for next week — the faster the second phase of construction, which was supposed to have happened already, can begin.
Any delays to that process will further set back the project. If it’s unfinished by August 2016, Golden Link Partners will have to default on the plan, meaning Caltrans and the SFCTA can withhold payments to the consortium, Saage said.
Doyle Drive, the southern gateway to the Golden Gate Bridge, is undergoing a massive rebuild.
$1.04B Cost of project
$455M Cost of second phase of project, to be managed by public-private partnership
$173M Amount to be paid to private consortium upon completion of project
$35M Maximum annual payments made to consortium to repay remainder of balance (contingent upon ideal maintenance of roadway)
Sources: SFCTA, Caltrans