Doyle Drive ruling carries high price

A major legal decision is expected today regarding the future of Doyle Drive, the southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge that is undergoing a $1 billion renovation.

On Dec. 22, an Alameda County Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the project following a lawsuit filed by the Professional Engineers in California Government, a public workers union.

The second phase of the Doyle Drive rebuild, a $488 million undertaking, is set to be financed and constructed by a consortium of foreign private investors, a development the engineers union is trying to stop because the project was not put out to bid for local government workers.

Last week, Judge Wynne Carvill reviewed the case, and he is expected to make a decision today. He could either extend the temporary injunction against the project or opt to drop the restraining order and allow the rebuild to move forward, with the private consortium, called Golden Link Partners, in charge of the plan.

Each day the project is delayed, its price tag increases by $250,000, according to Lee Saage, project manager for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, one of two public agencies working with Golden Link Partners on the rebuild.

If the injunction against the project is extended beyond March 1, Golden Link can opt to terminate its contract. If that happens, about $200 million in federal funding identified for the project could be lost, Saage said.

In its lawsuit, the engineers union said the rebuild project is not eligible to be funded through a private partnership and would result in taxpayers paying millions more in extra costs. It wants the second phase of the project to go back out for bid in 2011.

The SFCTA and Caltrans, the public agencies in charge of the plan, said the private-partnership agreement would save $150 million, mostly from reductions in cost overruns.

Doyle Drive, a six-lane highway built in 1936, carries roughly 120,000 vehicles a day. Through the rehabilitation project, it will be replaced by a thoroughfare called the Presidio Parkway, an artery featuring two sets of tunnels, rebuilt aerial viaducts and dedicated bike lanes.

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