Bay May Get New Bridge

It may get ever-so-slightly easier to get from the East Bay to the Peninsula, thanks to a new study into whether Bay Area counties need to build a new bridge across the water.

The first phase of the study will cost $400,000, to be funded by existing bridge tolls. And will connect San Lorenzo to San Bruno. That's music to the ears of all eight people who can't get enough of either of those two cities.

The last time such a bridge was proposed, it was 2002 and the construction costs were estimated at over $8 billion. But the Bay Area Toll Authority feels that conditions may have changed since then. (Did the bay get narrower in the last decade?)

If this preliminary six-month study delivers promising results, then the next phase will be a more expensive, more time-consuming, more in-depth look at the mechanics of building a bridge. Safety will likely be a major concern, with an alert issued this week regarding high winds on several Bay Area bridges.

Another issue is environmental protection. The shores of the Bay are home to numerous endangered wildlife habitats.

One proposal would install new BART tunnels across the Bay, significantly shortening transit times. Riders would no longer have to travel all the way through San Francisco to cross the water. The bridge might also carry rapid bus transit. Of course, these amenities would cost more money. At last count, the BART tunnel would come in just over $10 billion.

It's the latest step in a conversation that dates back to the 1940s, when a similar bridge was first proposed. Over the decades, proposals have come and gone -- including one plan that would have chopped off the top of Yerba Buena Island to build a gigantic traffic circle -- but none have stuck.

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