SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- State transportation officials knew three
years ago there would be problems getting permission from the U.S.
Navy to build a new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but it forged
ahead anyway and eventually spent $40 million for planning.
Now a deadlock between the California Department of
and the Navy is the only thing holding up the $1.5 billion bridge,
which is being financed by a 1998 toll increase of $1 on all spans
the San Francisco Bay area, except for the Golden Gate Bridge. The
new bridge would be one of the largest building projects in
The dispute centers on where Caltrans wants to position the new
span between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island.
State engineers and a regional commission want to build to the
north of the current bridge. But Mayor Willie Brown and the Navy say
the span should be built to the south, to protect potential
development and historic buildings on Treasure Island that adjoins
The bridge, which was built in 1936 and has a main span that is
2,310 feet long, joins the east and west sides of the Bay. The two
links connecting Alameda County to the east and San Francisco to the
west meet at Yerba Buena.
Caltrans has tremendous power to take land it needs for building
freeways and bridges, but it has no control over the Navy.
"My impression is that they don't hear the word `no' very often,"
said Jeff Young, a spokesman for the Navy, "and I think they kind of
just proceeded. And now they've run into federal property."
It's not that Caltrans hasn't worked with the Navy about getting a
drilling permit and putting heavy construction equipment on Treasure
and Yerba Buena islands. Caltrans has put together a file with 74
letters and memos between the two agencies dating to July 6, 1995.
In early 1997, when it became clear Caltrans wanted to build a new
bridge instead of retrofitting the old one, environmental officials
for the transportation department sent a letter requesting access to
Six days later, on March 10, 1997, the Navy replied with a
detailed letter saying the request was premature.
The service said it appeared the plans would put Navy housing in
jeopardy, make too much noise and bother movie sound studios on
Treasure Island, and make it generally difficult for people to live
and work on the island.
In addition, the Navy said Caltrans was ignoring its pleas to
improve dangerous ramps to and from the island that were built in
1930s, and Caltrans hadn't resolved who would clean up lead
contamination under the Bay Bridge.
"While the Navy desires to facilitate the seismic improvements to
this vital Bay area transportation artery," Navy manager Kenn Y. …