Published

11/25/09
  • FAQ: What's happening on the Bay Bridge project

    Why should we care about the Bay Bridge?

    The official cost estimate of $6.3 billion includes well-documented and little-known and cost overruns spanning the last 12 years, since the bridge was originally proposed. That money is coming from an array of state and regional taxpayer-supported funds, tolls and borrowing. Bottom line: Bay Area residents have little understanding of how much they've already paid to get this bridge built, and how much they're on the hook for when this complex and aesthetically striking bridge comes online. And the fate of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge somewhat mirrors that of the state of California, since some of the same financing and management processes are at work.

    Is this project an investigative report?

    There's some internal debate about that among the reporters and editors whether this is an "investigative" or "explanatory" piece of journalism. There's not a clear-cut distinction. What gives it an investigative feel? We've been requesting documents from about half a dozen state, regional and local agencies since September and we've discovered some important -- and previously unreported -- trends in budgeting for the overall construction project. Importantly, you don't have to uncover corruption or incompetence to call it investigative. Our biggest advance is taking the long view of the costs and capital involved in such mind-bogglingly massive construction stretching more than a decade. That's the explanatory bit.

    How much information have you examined?

    Our reporters have requested and sifted through about 20,000 pages of documents. They've traveled to Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco to do reporting. They've also interviewed several dozen sources in and outside of government, from a wide variety of points of view.

    Who's involved?

    In alphabetical order: Andrew Bertolina, Robert Porterfield, Christopher Benz, Dave Eggers, Gena Lindsay, Jesse Nathan, Max Rosenblum, Michael Adamick, Michael Stoll, Michael Winter, Patricia Decker, Richard Pestorich, among others.

    How has McSweeney's and SF Public Press worked together?

    Well. We've been meeting at the Public Press offices for about two months. On Monday we had a small meeting at McSweeney's to discuss questions on graphics, sidebars, illustrations and photography. The editors from both organizations are exchanging drafts of the story and have sent pointed questions to the reporters. While we're working on the writing, the reporters are still reviewing the numbers, events, quotes. Meanwhile, three graphic designers and McSweeney's publisher Dave Eggers have weighed in with ideas about how to display the reams of data we've got graphically.

    What next steps will you take?

    After this report is published, there will be plenty of of work to be done to go through contracts, audits, reports, laws and regulations that affect the Bay Bridge. We are planning to publish follow-up stories based on this reporting into 2010.

    What new information will you be reporting when the story is published?

    You'll have to read the report, coming soon to sfpublicpress.org and the San Francisco Panorama in print.

    What's the role of Spot.Us?

    The reporting takes time from individuals and therefore takes money. We have lots of folks working on the project as volunteers, but we also are paying some reporters to assure that we'd reach the finish line. As of right now we are actually $400 in debt. We hope to raise some of that money and more so that we can continue to make meaningful progress on this topic. Your support is appreciated and we hope more civically engaged folks will join you.

    Posted by Spot. Us on 11/25/09
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