S.F. firm puts bypass cost at $126 million

Half Moon Bay Review, Oct. 30, 1996

By Eric Rice

The Devil's Slide Martini Creek Bypass would cost $10 million more to build than CalTrans' recently estimated, according to a new independent analysis released by the highway agency on Tuesday.

The estimate, prepared for the California Department of Transportation by National Constructors Group of San Francisco, raises the cost of the 4.5-mile inland bypass up to the mid-level cost of a tunnel and puts it as much as $10 million more than the lowest-cost tunnel.

Measure T supporters heading into the final week of the campaign hailed the study as additional proof of their claim that the tunnel is cheaper than the bypass.

"The bottom line here is the results of the study (released two weeks ago) . . . showed the costs were comparable and the best tunnel option was less expensive," said Supervisor Ted Lempert. "With these revised figures, the preferred tunnel appears significantly cheaper.

Lempert said the new bypass estimate bodes well for funding of a tunnel if Measure T, the tunnel initiative, passes Nov. 5.

"Any argument not to fund a cheaper project that the people support would really be foolhardy," Lempert said.

No on T spokesman Ed Stoehr could not be reached for comment.

National Constructors Group was hired to do its own cost estimate of the bypass to compare with one done in-house by CalTrans. CalTrans' estimated construction costs for the bypass at $85.8 million, compared with National Constructors Group's $95.3 million estimate.

Those estimates do not include additional costs for earthquake engineering, rights-of-way purchases, and operations and maintenance that must be figured in. CalTrans previously estimated those costs at roughly $31 million, bringing its estimate to $117 million. Added to National Constructors Group's estimate, that would bring its total for the bypass to $125 million.

CalTrans spokesman Greg Bayol said Tuesday that the agency stands by its own estimate.

Among the costs for the bypass, according to National Constructors Group, is $40.5 million just for bridges, $5 million more than CalTrans estimates. Construction of the 4.5-mile roadway is estimated at $51 million, $3 million more than CalTrans. National Group also included $1 million more in its contingency than CalTrans.

Tunnel supporters contend that the bypass estimates released Tuesday still fall short of the true bypass cost. They believe additional geologic studies that have not yet been performed on the bypass alignment will drive the cost even higher. At the same time, Lempert noted that the "cost trends" for the tunnel are leading to decreasing costs and general agreement among experts that one of the lowest cost tunnels is the best alternative of the seven studied.

"The bottom line here," Measure T spokeswoman Kate Smit stated in a press release Tuesday, "is that the tunnel can be built for less than the bypass and in less time because it has minimal environmental impacts and its feasibility has already been studied. The bypass would require extensive additional geologic and engineering studies to determine its feasibility and the true costs of the devastation it would bring to wildlife and marine habitats, as well as local Coastside communities."

Half Moon Bay Review