This week, a committee that manages seismic retrofit projects for the state's toll bridges approved a plan to convert piers from the former Bay Bridge into two public parks.
The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee (TBPOC), which provides "project oversight and project control for the Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program in California," gave Caltrans permission to sign contracts with vendors to start the work, KQED has reported.
While the body approved the proposal in January, it capped the project's budget at $52 million, which includes demolition and construction costs. Once the estimated price tag began to surpass budget guidelines, Caltrans scaled back its initial design proposal.
"After we went out and got bids, we were closer to 60 [million dollars] than we were to 52," Brian Maroney, chief bridge engineer for Caltrans told the Committee. "I made it clear I wasn't coming back here and asking for any more money."
To reduce costs, a team of architects, contractors and engineers identified where cuts could be made, including scrapping plans for a large parking lot and paved walkway. The team suggested replacing it with "a simple crushed-gravel walkway" instead.
Already, the proposal calls for imploding two remaining bridge piers and building a 600-foot walkway over the water on three piers near the Oakland shore and adjacent to Yerba Buena Island.
Other cost-saving proposals, like not installing lighting—in part because the East Bay Regional Park District and the Treasure Island Development Authority plan to keep the spaces closed at night—were also suggested.
"We identified items that if taken out, somebody in the future could put back in if they wanted," said Maroney.
After the Trump administration's threats to impose tariffs on Chinese-made steel, prices became unpredictable, said Maroney. A Caltrans contractor reported to the committee that "they were literally getting quotes that only lasted for one hour," according to KQED News.
Caltrans also needed approval because work can't commence until the agency receives environmental approvals from state and federal agencies, including the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We do not have any permits to build this work," Maroney told TBPOC on Monday.
Since the Committee gave the go-ahead to Caltrans to begin taking its next steps, the new public park facilities should be open within a year.