Scandal! (Possibly.) According to the Contra Costa Times, who has been all over the bridge this week, contractor American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises will cash in on a $20 million bonus if the bridge opens as scheduled on Labor Day weekend. If the bridge doesn't open by the end of November, the bridge builders start incurring $100,000 per day penalties, up to $125 million total.
Compared to the $1.43 billion cost for the total contract, that bonus may not seem like much, but it has some lawmakers freaking out that it could lead to unsafe shortcuts on a bridge that has recently been marred by an onslaught of bad PR. "It is paramount that the public is assured that the opening of the bridge is not being rushed," a group of 14 state legislators wrote to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission this week. "In order to build public confidence, the public must fully understand that incentives are not driving the targeted Labor Day opening."
The bonuses, which were agreed upon back in 2010 when the project was already years behind schedule, were designed to give contractors a kick in the pants to get the project moving again.
As we noted yesterday, a peer-review panel of experts thinks the bridge is totally good to go, but Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority and the California Transportation Commission will give the final word on whether or not the bridge is ready to open for Labor Day weekend. They are expected to hand down that decision on July 10th, after the Federal Highway Administration has a chance to give everything a once-over. A spokesman for the bridge (because it cannot speak for itself, obviously) has reassured the public that it will absolutely not open before it is safe to carry traffic: "Incentives or no incentives," Andrew Gordon explained, "the bridge will open when it is safe and not a day before."