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At the end of our recent piece on the Great Crane Giveaway, we observed that “when it comes to big government and bureaucracy, things are always worse than they seem.” As it turns out, the crane giveaway wasn’t the end of it, as San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross point out.
The new bridge is in place, but the old bridge needs to be torn down. As that proceeds, “the double-crested cormorants and other birds that call the old Bay Bridge home are fast becoming a $30 million-plus headache.” But the birds are not the problem. “As crews demolish the 10,000-foot-long steel structure where the birds roost, they’ve had to navigate around broadly interpreted state and federal environmental laws designed to protect the feathered critters.” Bay Area Toll Authority mouthpiece Randy Rentschler told the columnists that the bridge has “suffered tens of millions of cost overruns and months of delays” from regulation enforcement.
Caltrans is spending $709,000 on nesting “condos” on the underside of the new bridge, hoping the birds will move. Caltrans also spent $1 million on decoys and such for the same purpose, but the birds haven’t moved. Caltrans is now speeding up the work, at a cost of additional $12.5 million. By Matier and Ross’s count, transportation bosses will need $17 million more, bringing the regulatory-driven spending on birds to more than $33 million, “which ain’t chicken feed.” So with government regulation and bureaucracy, things are always much worse than they seem, and don’t forget the new eastern span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.
It came in $5 billion over budget and ten years late, with more than a reasonable doubt about its safety. Defective welds and other problems prompted insiders to call for a criminal investigation, but no surprise that nothing of the kind took place. Misconduct, incompetence, and waste all enjoy special protection in California government.