Buy Now, Pay Later Plan for Doyle Drive

Financing scheme could waste money, but save lives.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    San Francisco County Transportation Authority; Santa Rosa Junior College

    Why rent when you can own? That's what the California Legislative Analyst has asked the city of San Francisco regarding a plan to rebuild the approach to Golden Gate Bridge that leave the city with massive interest to repay.

    The exact mechanics of the financing are pretty complex, but it basically comes down to "buy now, pay later." Usually, government construction projects get bids, pick the cheapest option, and then pay up-front for the project. But in a scheme advanced by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and embraced by the Schwarzenegger administration, Doyle Drive will be paid for by private industry, and then repaid over many years by the state.

    The benefit is that the construction is completed sooner. But the drawback is that taxpayers are left with lengthy repayments.

    There are plenty of opponents to the idea. An engineering group claimed this summer that it would waste hundreds of millions of dollars.

    And now the Legislative Analyst agrees. It "is not likely to be a good fiscal deal for the state," a new report says. Of course, the financial angle is only one aspect to consider. It could wind up being a very good deal indeed if an earthquake hits soon and lives are saved.

    The experts will tell you that the Doyle Drive rebuild has to happen as soon as possible. It's an earthquake hazard that could tumble over in the next big quake. The rebuild is also providing the Presidio with an opportunity to reclaim natural areas and restore creeks and wetlands that were nearly destroyed by centuries of army activity.

    It's not the first time that public officials have tried to save money in the short term by spending more in the long term. Earlier this year, Governor Schwarzenegger fired a commissioner who criticized his plans to sell state buildings and then lease them back.