Noyo bridge work delayed; 
                  effect on cost uncertain 

                  May 1, 2001

                  By UCILIA WANG
                  THE PRESS DEMOCRAT 

Caltrans announced Monday yet another setback in replacing Fort Bragg's Noyo
River Bridge, citing an oversight in planning the construction work.

Doris Alkebulan, a Caltrans project manager, said officials were assessing
how much the new delay will add to the project's cost. Originally, it was set
at about $22 million.

Alkebulan blamed the delay on the lack of permission for a staging area for
the contractor's equipment and materials. She said that oversight was
forcing Caltrans to ask the state Coastal Commission to modify its permit to
allow the staging area.

She said Caltrans was not to blame for the mistake. The contractor, MCM
Construction Inc. of the Sacramento area, could not be reached for
comment Monday.

With the new delay, Caltrans now expects the new bridge will open in

Caltrans on Monday also canceled its contract for the new bridge with
MCM Construction, saying the need for a permit amendment will change
the scope of the project.

Caltrans has had disagreements with MCM over how to carry out
construction work in the river, but Alkebulan refused to say whether the
differences led to the contract termination.

She said MCM will continue work started last week to reinforce the old,
rusting steel bridge, which Caltrans fears would collapse during a major
earthquake. That work will cost about $530,000, she said.

Caltrans will reopen the new bridge project to bidding after it obtains the
permit change, she said. Work on the new bridge isn't scheduled to resume
until June next year. So far, only some preparation work has been done for
the new span.

How much MCM will receive for work done since it began the project in
February 2000 hasn't been determined, she said.

The project has faced oppositions and delays since Caltrans first sought
regulatory approval in 1998. The state Coastal Commission greenlighted the
project in March 1999 over protests about the design of the bridge railing,
which some say doesn't allow enough see-through space for motorists to
enjoy the coastal scenery.

Caltrans' delays in the project have included how to carry out work in the
river and where to stage the equipment. Caltrans' permit from the Coastal
Commission calls for using a barge to carry equipment and workers for
work in the waterway.

But MCM told Caltrans the barge might block boat traffic. Alkebulan said
MCM wanted to build an access road instead to help transport equipment
because its contract prohibited any interference with navigation.

But Caltrans decided that creating an access road would cause more
environmental impact than using the barge. Its Coastal Commission permit
also doesn't allow for an access road.

Alkebulan wouldn't say whether the barge and access road issues
contributed to termination of MCM's contract.

The Coastal Commission on May 11 is scheduled to decided whether to
allow Caltrans to use part of the Ocean Front Park for setting up the staging
area for equipment and materials.

Jere Melo, a Fort Bragg city councilman, said the bridge isn't safe and
hopes there won't be any further delay.

"When a truck goes through the bridge, it goes up and down. This one
sways quite a bit," Melo said. "I am hoping that they will get the permit
requirement satisfied by next year and get on with the project"