July 13, 2005

Calif. lawmakers back San Fran. bridge funding bill

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California lawmakers passed a
bill on Wednesday that provides financing to complete a new
span for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, clearing the way
for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign it into law.

Completion of the $6 billion project on one of California's
most important conveyances will be financed with $630 million
in state funds and $820 million from refinancing bonds
previously issued for the bridge work.

Funding also will come from a $1 toll increase on seven
state-operated bridges in the San Francisco Bay area starting
in 2007. The new $4 tolls will help cover some of the $3.6
billion in cost overruns on the span, which is replacing the
bridge's original eastern span damaged in a 1989 earthquake.

The terms of the bill approved by a 58-6 vote in the state
Assembly had been worked out by Schwarzenegger and state Senate
President Don Perata last month. The state Senate already has
endorsed the bill.

The project's fate had been in doubt while Schwarzenegger,
a Republican, and lawmakers from the Democratic San Francisco
Bay area sparred for 10 months over a design of the new span.

Schwarzenegger urged a flat roadway. Local lawmakers
insisted on a more expensive suspension bridge.

Their compromise allows for a suspension tower, which will
complement the towers of the bridge's western span and the
towers of the nearby Golden Gate bridge, as local commuters
will pick up the bulk of its cost.