Caltrans to open Devils Slide bids Tuesday

Posted by on Sun, November 12, 2006

Caltrans will open bids for the Devil’s Slide tunnels contract at 2pm Tuesday Nov 14. A webcast of the event will be available on the Caltrans web site.

Comment 1
Tue, November 14, 2006 4:47pm
Carl May
All my comments

Up, up, up she goes. Where she peaks, nobody knows. The *lower* bid of slightly under $300 million for just the tunneling phase of the project should remind many of the heady Measure T campaign when one tunneling firm estimated about $60 million for the same work. (Of course, that was before the unnecessary doubling of the tunnels from one to two.)

Before it is done, the two tunnels under Devil’s Slide will rewrite the definition of “fiscal flatulence.” Or at least they would if there was not the distraction of the even worse financial mess surrounding the eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Anyone still think the $half billion ballpark figure some of us have been tossing out for several years for the entire project is silly? It’s beginning to look like that will be on the low end of the possible cost range.

It’d be laughable if it wasn’t so disgusting.

Carl May

Comment 2
Wed, November 15, 2006 12:35am
Leonard Woren
All my comments

It’s been stated that CalTrans isn’t interested in small projects.

This reminds me of one of the stories in Sam Levinson’s book “Everything But Money” about growing up poor in New York City in the early 20th century.  Sam wrote about trying to get the landlord to fix a hole in the wall.  The response:  “It’s not worth fixing a hole that small.”  So they made it big enough to be worth fixing.

What was the range of bids?  Did the firm which earlier estimated $60M submit a bid?

By the way, when Measure T passed, didn’t we hear that the tunnel would be open in about 2004?  Since I always thought and still think that the current alignment can be permanently repaired, I haven’t followed the tunnels saga, so I have to ask:  What’s up with the schedule?  Why aren’t they even starting until well after the original completion date?

Comment 3
Thu, November 16, 2006 3:40pm
Carl May
All my comments


We’re on Caltrans time and Caltrans accounting now. Questioning any of it is just sending vibrations off into the ozone.

The main construction currently going on is for the bridges on the north end. Nothing done on the tunneling for months, other than to remove brush from the area of the south portals, and from the bids it doesn’t look like anything will fire up for more months. It’s an expensive rape, but not a quick one.

Carl May

Comment 4
Fri, November 17, 2006 10:47am
Steven Hyman
All my comments

What we are seeing here is the combined result of ineffecient government at work plus the costly result of all the years of delays from appeals, etc.

Pick any project on the Coast and you’ll see the same thing, whether it be the new school, water pipeline, Boys & Girls club, etc.  All the years of delays from red frog, wetland, traffic studies and what ever else have driven up the costs of these projects to incredible levels.

And guess what,  we all pay for it or get a scaled back project cause of inflation and government incompetence.

Its incredible to think that the tunnel is probably going to cost somewhere around $500 million when done.  That’s a far cry from the original cost alloted 10 years ago and not worth the money.  Its too bad we didn’t do the bypass 20 years ago and saved $400 million dollars of our money.  Of course,  hindsight is 20/20.

Steven Hyman

Comment 5
Fri, November 17, 2006 12:21pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

All it would take is a can of paint to convert these two oversized tunnels into a four-lane underground freeway!

Fax letters a.s.a.p. to the Coastal Commission c/o Chris Kern at (415) 904-5400 and ask that the Coastal Commission remove from San Mateo County their jurisdiction over the Mid-Coast’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP) and their Fraudulent, Exploitive “LCP Update” that would lead to the exploitation of the multitude of Antiquaed 25’ Sub-Standard Lots not even expressed in their 1980’s over-estimated LCP Buildout Numbers upon which they and CCWD have erroneously based all of their over-bloated assumptions for how many additional houses, people, cars, water supply additions, out-of-scale water, sewer & road expansions and out-of-scale urbanized park/rec facilities they would LIKE to get away with shoving into the Mid-Coast.

Note that their “LCP Update” materials indicate that they plan to run this Coastside’s schools year around in order to accommodate all of the additional students they expect.

Barb Mauz

Comment 6
Fri, November 17, 2006 5:16pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

I have received the following explanation of how the bids are evaluated from John Cunliffe at Caltrans:

The bidder has to submit two parts in a bid: a dollar amount and a duration. In this case the lowest bidder submitted $272,366,000 and 1500 calendar days.

The dollar amount is the estimated construction cost, referred to as Part A. Part B is a calculation.  It is not an estimate of construction cost. Part B equals the estimated number of days multiplied by Caltrans’ estimate of how much it costs per day for Caltrans to manage the project during the construction phase. In this case Part B = 1500 x $16,900 = $$25,350,000

Part B is used in two ways:

1) For a quantitative comparison of bids that have different dollar amounts and different durations

2) As an incentive for the bidder to minimize the time estimate and complete the job within the time estimate.

To illustrate:

Consider two bids.

Bid 1  $200M  1500 days
Bid 2  $200M  1400 days

Bid 2 wins - same cost -  fewer days

Now consider two other bids

Bid 1  $200M  1500 days
Bid 2  $195M  2000 days

Which bid wins now?

Bid 1  $200M + (1500 x $16, 900) = $200M + $25.35M = $225.35M
Bid 2  $195M + (2000 x $16,900) = $195M + $33.8M = $228.8M

Bid 1 wins.

This calculation provides a rational basis to compare bids and so determine the lowest qualified bidder. Part B is also used as an incentive for the bidder to complete the job in the estimated time. For every day the job exceeds 1,500 days the bidder is penalized $16,900, i.e. Caltrans gets $16, 900 from the bidder. If the job is completed in less than 1500 days there is no contractual financial impact to the bidder or to Caltrans.

Bid results for Devil’s Slide Tunnel (Contract #04-1123U4) are posted at this website:

Comment 7
Fri, November 17, 2006 7:11pm
Mary Bordi
All my comments

Barb Mauz says, “...they plan to run this Coastside’s schools year around…”

Since year around schools have been used in the past by the school district, I’ve started a topic in Townhall about year around schools.

Perhaps some locals with direct experience can chime in over there.

Comment 8
Fri, November 17, 2006 9:50pm
Carl May
All my comments

Anyone who followed the realities of the above-ground bypass in the 80’s and early 90’s knows Caltrans lowballed it for years in an attempt to make it look good by comparison. Then, as the minimizing was no longer necessary after various rounds of approvals were in hand, the estimated costs jumped dramatically with each round. Time and again. Caltrans is all about maximizing expenditures through whatever rationalizations the agency can muster. That is how the agency, like all agencies, gets its power and position in state government. The annual budget of Caltrans is greater than the *entire* budgets of more than half the states in the U.S.

Independent estimates in years past had the 5-6 lane bypass to be blasted through Montara Mountain coming in higher than any other alternative. Figure on the same budget jacking for the bypass as for the tunnels over the years, and the cost would be as high or higher than the probable half billion for the tunnel. And the bypass was a very long construction project, not something that could be knocked out in a year or two. All this excess for a project that would have wrecked two coastal communities, spurred even greater and faster overdevelopment throughout the midcoast than that which has occurred anyway (according to Caltrans’s own study), and destroyed a precious and rare remnant of mostly natural open space on Montara Mountain—all with many violations of various sections of the Coastal Act that were squirreled through by the politicians serving their developer buddies. Both taxpayers and all those who appreciate what remains of the more natural features and small-community character of the midcoast owe those who fought the bypass a huge debt of gratitude. There were no savings to be had at any stage of the game through building the bypass—only losses, both financial and in the physical environment.

But, of course, the fact that the above-ground bypass would have been worse for our lives and pocketbooks does not excuse the grossly unnecessary twin-tunnel messes, both financial and physical. Caltrans resistance to the bypass fell off in direct proportion to the amount of money they could con for the tunnels, much of this coming by way of getting people to go for a grossly oversized project. After the Measure T landslide, Caltrans managed to wheedle financial victory from the jaws of defeat. (Or the representatives of the public managed to seize partial defeat from the jaws of victory, pick your angle.) To hear some of the politicians and Caltrans bureaucrats nowadays, you would think the tunnels were their idea.

By the way, the red-legged frog was not even listed when the bypass controversy was going on.

Carl May

Comment 9
Fri, November 17, 2006 9:56pm
Carl May
All my comments


The “Part B” cannot be considered anything but overhead for the tunnel construction. It is money that will be spent for that part of the project and cannot be separated from the cost of the whole.

Funny how Part B for the tunneling alone would probably have covered the complete cost of dewatering and roadbed stabilization on the current alignment. Sorta lets one realize that it’s all about the money and not the actual problem with the highway.

Carl May

Comment 10
Sat, November 18, 2006 11:00am
Sam Carrieri
All my comments

Mr Hyman many of us agree with you the longer we wait the more infrastructure costs the hapless tax payer. But we get put down by the do nothings till its to late & costly. As for only having one tunnel bore no thanks bad enough i have visions of being trapped in the tunnel with a vehicle on fire in front of me [ my luck the clunker in back of me would be on fire too] i dont want to be worried about cars coming towards me in a single bore coming over the center line like 92.
And Mr.Carl[Move]May as you tell many of us “Yah Dont Like it Move”

Comment 11
Sat, November 18, 2006 6:19pm
Hal Bogner
All my comments

Mr. Hyman,

It’s not right for you to blame the delays in the new middle school on anything other than (a) state law and (b) proponents who either didn’t do their homework, or thought they could get approval in violation of state law.

As a leading light of the real estate trade, you know better than most here what the laws are, and as your trade association spends more than almost any other special interest in gifting politicians with cash, so presumably you are working to change the law, as well as carping about it.

The cynical conjoining of interests by the Ken Jones era school board and the Wavecrest developer cost this district millions of dollars, and years of waiting for a better school by the kids locally.  It also rendered the school board unable to muster the required 67% support for parcel taxes five times in a row - in an area where belief in supporting the school district had produced 75% in support of the money for the still-unbuilt middle school (as well as other improvements long-since made).

It’s not clear to me what the middle school has to do with the tunnel, and why you roll these up into the same handful of stones you are throwing.


Hal Bogner

Comment 12
Sat, November 18, 2006 8:31pm
Carl May
All my comments

But, of course, I do like some of what is left of the midcoast and most of what I advocate is stopping people from wrecking it. Why should someone who opposes damaging changes and overpopulation that cannot be supported with local resources be the one to leave? Want a paved over landscape, including multi-lane freeways? You know where to find them.

The sad thing is that thanks to greedy destructionists and the politicians they own, much quicker, easier, cheaper answers to the landslide on Devil’s slide have always been dismissed through the political process. One was called the “Modified Marine Disposal Alternative.” Another, more recent one, was called “dewatering.” These are the kind of answers that could have been built in a couple of years with minimal negative environmental impacts (unavoidable environmental impacts being one reason big, destructive projects take so long to get going).

But those better alternatives would never have been more than the two-lane road *required* by the California Coastal Act for scenic rural areas, so the politicians at the behest of their developer buddies would never favor anything but the biggest, most expensive road. Which, of course, plays right into the hands of the money-loving bureaucrats at Caltrans. Want the answer to why a more stable road on Devil’s Slide was not built long ago and why the current mega-sized project is taking so long? Look no farther than the combine of those who want to overdevelop the midcoast even more (and need bigger roads to serve their schemes) with the bureaucrats of a money/power-grubbing state agency. Taxpayers lose and those who care about the positive features of the coastside lose.

Carl May

Steve Hyman wrote:
“Pick any project on the Coast and you’ll see the same thing, whether it be the new school, water pipeline, Boys & Girls club, etc.  All the years of delays from red frog, wetland, traffic studies and what ever else have driven up the costs of these projects to incredible levels.”

Dang those pesky environmentalists, tree-huggers, frog-hoggers, or whatever they want to call themselves. Why do those people keep insisting that development projects have to obey the law?

I mean, realtors and developers could make a lot more money if we could all just agree to ignore the law and get on with paving the place. After all, isn’t that why we all moved here—so we could make it look like every other place over the hill?

Carl, Carl Im not talking about “paving the place”. None of us want to see that. In 6/69 when i moved here you wouldnt believe how peaceful it was no golf courses, no dump on 92 etc. [where were the frogs & snakes when the dump was built] of course the people before me resented me moving to HMB.  But i dont resent any that came after me we met a lot of great neighbors & friends after they moved here.
I dont want any paving over just safety improvements for the safety of all of us.

Comment 15
Mon, November 20, 2006 10:31am
Steven Hyman
All my comments

I would obviously never make it in politics.  I don’t have the patience to watch things drag on for years.

99% of all businesses couldn’t operate this way either. Spending years developing a plan and then going way over budget.  Most companies would be bankrupt wasting that much time talking about something.  And by that time the information would probably be useless because its so dated.

Of course for the bureaucrats,  this is business as usual.  And why do they care cause its only our money.

But seriously,  you have to admit that much doesn’t seem to get done here in a timely manner.  Everything seems to take forever and its so combatitive as well.

Its too bad because this is such a beautiful place to live.  But the reality is that we can expect many more years of complaining watching little getting done and the costs going through the roof.

Steven Hyman

Comment 16
Mon, November 20, 2006 2:25pm
Carl May
All my comments

Advocating “growth” and “infrastructure expansion” on the midcoast equals, among other destructive consequences, additional hardscaping (“paving over”). No two ways about it.

Obviously, our weak conservation laws, such as the California Coastal Act, have not been able to protect the coastside—and here I mean the entire California coast, not just the S.M. County midcoast. But for those with dollar signs in their eyes who lament how long it takes to wheedle development schemes through the political and bureaucratic processes, here’s a suggestion. Try starting with a project that clearly complies with all laws, including all zoning and the LCP’s for our communities. This instead of trying to push the limits of what the law allows, buying politicians to use semantics to say “up” is “down” during the protracted approval processes, asking for variances, trying to change laws through the political process, trying to change laws through the initiative process, etc. Now, greedseeds have a perfect right to try all of this kind of stuff, but they don’t have a right to complain about the time their shenanigans take to work through the process. It takes time to cook government according to their recipes.

Carl May