History of the Design and Selection Process

Fall, 1996—After nearly seven years of studies, the notion of retrofitting the east span is about to be abandoned. Ventry Engineering of Florida has been commissioned to do a "value analysis," weighing a new bridge against a retrofit. Ventry suggests a single-tower cable-stayed structure to replace the 1400-foot truss cantilever portion of the old bridge, nearest Yerba Buena Island. Caltrans' peer review is brought in to comment. (See March 10, 1997, below.)

Winter 96-97—Caltrans management asks in-house design team to show a feasible replacement bridge, with options for performance, constructability and cost. Caltrans' team, led by Brian Maroney, produces several solutions, ranging from a 100-percent reinforced-concrete viaduct (sometimes referred to as a "skyway"), to the same viaduct with twin-tower cable-stayed structure replacing one-fifth of the viaduct near Yerba Buena. Single-tower cable-stayed proposal is discarded by Caltrans.

Early 1997—Caltrans asks the U.S. Coast Guard to state requirements for a "shipping lane" near Yerba Buena. Coast Guard replies that both the height and 500-foot "bumper-to-bumper" spans of the proposed viaduct are sufficient for its future needs.

February 13, 1997—Two Caltrans options are made public: "skyway," (the viaduct), costing $1 billion and described as a longer version of the Napa River Bridge, and an identical viaduct with one-fifth of its length replaced by a twin-tower cable-stayed structure close to Yerba Buena.

March 10, 1997—Allan Temko, architecture critic for the Chronicle, writes that San Francisco engineer T.Y. Lin has responded to a request by the Chronicle to "create an alternative" to Caltrans' designs, which turns out to be the viaduct with a single-masted cable-stayed structure at Yerba Buena attached to it. Temko derides the Caltrans viaduct and writes: "T.Y. Lin has responded with a masterpiece that would give the East Bay one of the noblest and most daring cable-stayed bridges in the world." Note: (1) many cable-stayed structures nearly identical to this exist worldwide, but are rare in California; (2) Temko is Lin's friend and biographer.

March 18, 1997—MTC, given jurisdiction of bridge selection by the state Legislature, holds first meeting of Bay Bridge Task Force, chaired by Mary King. Governor will support building Caltrans' viaduct for $1 billion.

March 27, 1997—MTC announces appointment of Joseph Nicoletti and John Kriken as chair and vice chair of Engineering Design Advisory Panel (EDAP), composed of Caltrans' peer review panel plus invited engineers and architects.

April 16, 1997—At a public meeting in Martinez, the Bay Bridge Task Force considers Caltrans' proposals and resolves to "look at more alternatives." The Task Force makes no announcement about how alternatives may enter into the review process. Brian Maroney says he will find out and convey the information to interested parties.

Late April, 1997—Brian Maroney says MTC is planning to review submissions on May 12, 13 and 14; "call MTC" for information. On April 28 and 29 inquiries to MTC produce Marjorie Blackwell's response that she does not know about a submittal process. Several calls (and complaints) later Steve Heminger agrees to fax (on April 30) submittal criteria apparently drafted April 29.

May 8, 1997—Parties selected by a pre-submittal screening are scheduled for presentation before EDAP on May 12, 13 and 14. Selected pre-submittals are shown to Task Force members at a public meeting in San Francisco. Gerwick/Sverdrup/DMJM (Gerwick being a member of EDAP) have submitted 100-page tomes instead of MTC's stipulated limit of three pages text and three pages drawings.

May 12, 1997—First day of workshop. EDAP listens to proposals of cable-stayed structures.

May 13, 1997—Second day of workshop. A note is handed to the Chair of EDAP who subsequently asks EDAP members to indicate by a show of hands who among them has proposals before EDAP or intends to submit proposals. About half of the members present (no count is taken) indicate that they have proposals, are connected with proposals or intend to bring proposals before EDAP.

May 19, 1997—Engineering News-Record reports, "Open design competition for Oakland Bay bridge concepts gives public input but has designers scrambling."

May 21, 1997—Coman-Feher, deducing that the process is rigged, protest by letter to the MTC Task Force. "It seems we were invited to submit a proposal only to give apparent legitimacy to an illegitimate process," they write.

May 29, 1997—William Hein/Steve Heminger respond for the Task Force that the Coman-Feher proposal "—together with those of 12 other firms and individuals—was reviewed against a published set of engineering and design criteria . . . "

June 4, 1997—A study of tape recordings (many of which are noisy, inaudible and incomplete) of EDAP proceedings, reveals that proposals were not reviewed against a published set of engineering and design criteria. In fact, they were not reviewed against any criteria. Only general and subjective terms were employed in the deliberations. Proposals not originating from EDAP members or their firms were summarily dismissed, while those which were brought by EDAP members or their firms were retained for further consideration. The only two exceptions are a curved cable-stayed bridge (which would, like most other proposals, replace a small portion of the viaduct) by Professors Astaneh and Black of U.C. Berkeley, and the Caltrans viaduct.

June 12, 1997—Coman-Feher respond in writing to MTC and call for an impartially juried international design competition for replacement of the eastern span. MTC does not reply to this letter.

June 16, 1997—Task Force anticipates this date as end of public advice and opinions on designs, with all reviews to be completed by the end of June. [MTC Fact Sheet, May 9, 1997.]

June 20, 1997—MTC director forwards EDAP's recommendation to "have Caltrans" proceed to 30% design of two types of viaduct appendage plus the viaduct. (This means further develop designs of both EDAP factions, but does not mean that Caltrans is to do the design work in-house.) "[O]ptions to reduce the cost of a bicycle/pedestrian facility should be explored," writes the MTC director.

June 24, 1997—EDAP Chair Nicoletti and Vice Chair Kriken submit separate and dissenting reports to the MTC Task Force; while Nicoletti recommends EDAP's own entries for further consideration, Kriken calls for "something along the lines of a short, effective competition" to bring in ideas from the rest of the world. +Chair Nicoletti admits that the viaduct is the most seismically reliable of all options retained. Task Force member Tom Hsieh asks Nicoletti whether, in evaluating proposals, EDAP graded or ranked proposals against a set of published criteria. Nicoletti responds that the evaluation of proposals was based upon the subjective experience and wisdom of EDAP members. ¶EDAP has favored northern bridge alignments (north of the existing bridge) while Caltrans' project director has favored a southern alignment. Dr. Astaneh brings historic geological surveys of the Bay to EDAP's attention; these show the presence of an ancient river canyon, the Temescal formation, dangerously close to the northern alignments. EDAP resolves to explore further the southern alignment. +By now MTC has received letters and petitions representing thousands who demand a bike and pedestrian path between Oakland and San Francisco; hundreds favor designing for future rail options. Correspondents from municipalities and agencies in MTC's nine constituent counties shows that an overwhelming majority want rail and other transit options, including a bike path, built into the bridge.

Early July, 1997—A "select committee of engineers," meeting privately, eliminates the Astaneh-Black proposal with no input from EDAP's architects. Caltrans' "skyway" (100-percent viaduct) is also eliminated. Thus, and in spite of its recommendation to "further explore" the southern alignment, EDAP now retains no southern-alignment option.

July, 1997—Meetings are postponed; no decisions are reached as EDAP is split into two factions: those who favor a single-masted cable-stayed bridge and those who favor a self-anchored suspension bridge.

August 20, 1997—Senate Bill 60, a revenue-juggling bill to fund bridge works, is rushed into law. It imposes a seismic retrofit surcharge on bridge tolls of $1 per vehicle, which makes news. Not making news are the fact that "seismic retrofit" work is now exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act until July of 2005. The law defines bicycle access and the Transbay Terminal as "amenities," not to be funded from state transportation accounts. S.B. 60 also appropriates $80 million for "cable suspension" and orders that "the main span [sic] of the bridge will be in the form a single tower cable suspension [sic] design" to be built on a northern, adjacent (to the old bridge) alignment.

August 25, 1997—Caltrans announces—contradicting earlier assertions—that "it alone" will decide who will design the bridge.

September 2, 1997—A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) by Caltrans authorizes hiring an umbrella consultant with "at least two separate and distinct design teams," one to design a single-masted cable-stayed bridge (see Ventry Engineering, Fall, 1996, above) and the other to design a self-anchored suspension bridge. (See July, above.)

During the fall and winter, 1997-98, T.Y. Lin International, having assembled the winning consortium, begins 30% design of cable-stayed, self-anchored suspension and viaduct concepts, for which they are to be paid $10 million. (The viaduct has been ruled out as a whole bridge, but must be designed as it constitutes most of the length of each alternate hybrid.)

Winter, 1997-98—Soundings in the bay confirm the presence of an ancient 500-foot-deep canyon in the bay, the Temescal formation first brought to light by Dr. Astaneh. It is too close to the northern alignment. The alignment is moved 1,000 feet to the south. Geometric constraints of that decision cause the "cable-supported spans" to be reduced by one-third to only 14 percent of the total length of the bridge. Also, consequently, the main pylon of each single-tower cable-supported structure is now in the middle of the deep channel that those structures were supposed to span. Original concepts called for a tower founded on the rock of Yerba Buena Island; now the central tower is to be founded on piles in the Yerba Buena mud. Critics are now prevalent, are widely quoted, and include dissenting members of EDAP.

MTC meetings held in the winter and spring are routine, but public input mounts. At two of these meetings in Oakland public comment is now unanimously negative, and constructive: future transit options need to be considered at the early design stage; bicycle and pedestrian access needs to be seriously, nut cursorily, considered; the seismic safety of the hybrid concept needs serious consideration.

March 4, 1998—New variants of the 14-percent spans are presented by both design teams: "portals."

April 16, 1998—The Bay Bridge Coalition, which includes members of EDAP, and the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects holds a "community critique" on the bridge project. Design teams bring the latest schemes featuring "portals," and Caltrans' Denis Mulligan re-iterates Caltrans' official view that the 100-percent viaduct is the best alternative. But, he says, "Caltrans is not going to build a bridge over your [the public's] heads." The panel of invited architects judges all four designs unacceptable. Many learn for the first time that there is no justifiable reason for any of the "signature" structures which will be 14 percent of the bridge but which have occupied 100 percent of the debate.

May 11, 1998—The San Francisco Chronicle publishes a readers' popularity poll on bridge design alternatives. Once again, pictured are only the 14-percent cable-supported portion of each alternative, out of context of the entire bridge or its integration into the bay.

May 18, 1998—EDAP eliminates "portal" options. Seismic performance of each variant of cable-supported structure is summarily called "adequate," with no explanation. In all of EDAP's discussion, which lasts half a day, there is no mention of the "hinge" where the viaduct portion of the bridge connects with the cable-stayed or suspension portion. A hinge between two structural types is the same design flaw which led to the failure of the 1936 bridge during the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. EDAP member Roumen Mladjov says he is ashamed to be an engineer in this time and in this process. The tiny span being considered, he says, is smaller than the 19th-century-type structure being replaced. Many EDAP members depart prior to the public-comment portion of the meeting. In all of the MTC meetings on the bridge, public comment has been left until last, after all decisions have been rendered. Speakers are critical of a process which has celebrated public input but which still ignores serious consideration of future transit options, bicycle and pedestrian access, and the fact that discussion has been exclusively concerned with the 14-percent "signature" portion of the bridge.

May 29, 1998—EDAP meets in Oakland to eliminate one—thus selecting the other—of two remaining schemes for a cable-supported "signature" structure. EDAP votes 12 to 7 (19 of 35 members are present) to recommend the "self-anchored suspension" concept. EDAP's recommendations are to be formally adopted by the Task Force on June 24. This would allow design consultants to negotiate with Caltrans to proceed beyond the 30-percent design stage for a "firm-fixed-price" to 100-percent design, expected to take 17 months.

June 10, 1998—MTC Task Force meets in Oakland to hear EDAP's recommendations and public comment. Citizens and officials from the East Bay tell the Task Force—again—that they are not happy with the viaduct.

June 22, 1998—MTC Task Force decides to recommend to the full MTC that it approve the viaduct-plus-signature plan. Dr. Astaneh, an expert in the seismic behavior of bridges, advises MTC of his grave concerns about possible catastrophic failure of the proposed self-anchored suspension span. MTC Chair, disturbed by the increasing criticism of the proposed design, says she does not know where the critics have been for the past year.

June 24, 1998—MTC, disregarding massive opposition to the viaduct, dissatisfaction with specifications of the proposed bicycle/pedestrian path, objections to the way the process has been handled, protests regarding the proposed relocation of the Transbay Terminal, pleas to include rail service and other transit options as part of the design of the bridge, vote as toll authority to approve the viaduct-plus-signature plan.

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