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Pols pledge initial $2 million
for MacArthur Maze repairs

By Matt Wynkoop

May 4, 2007

State and federal representatives visited the damaged portion of the MacArthur Maze today to tour the wreckage and announce that $2 million in initial federal emergency relief has been allocated to cover the cost of repairing the portion of the interchange damaged in a fiery tanker truck crash Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters joined U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and U.S. representatives Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and James Oberstar, D-Minn., to tour of the site so they could see what kinds of repairs were required.

"We're not going to let funding for the Maze get tied up in a web of bureaucracy,'' Secretary Peters said during a news conference held near the sections of Interstate Highways 580 and 80 that were destroyed in the gasoline-fuelled blaze.

Peters said the department has made the funds immediately available to help get damaged portions open and drivers moving again.

The $2 million is planned as the first installment of more federal funds, which are expected to follow once the total cost for the project is determined.

Peters also said that an estimated $4 million to $6 million per day is lost in time and economic productivity due to the collapse.

"It was important for us to come here and see how this disaster is affecting commuters and businesses, she said.

California Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton said the state plans to have a contract proposal for the project finished by Monday night, with construction likely to begin Tuesday. The total cost for the reconstruction of the collapsed portion of the Maze has been estimated at around $20 million.

Kempton said Caltrans is considering stockpiling roadway constructive materials across the state to ensure that the entire California roadway system has the resources needed to quickly become safe again in the instance of another disaster.

Each of the state and federal representatives pledged they would do everything possible to ensure the federal government works as a close partner with the state in completing the reconstruction project and to reimburse state costs already accumulated.

As Boxer toured the demolition site she said the federal government would reimburse all of the state's reconstruction costs if work finishes within six months.

Boxer also thanked the people of the Bay Area for making use of public transit in recent days and praised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for declaring the collapse a disaster immediately.

Bay Area Rapid Transit has seen its passenger count soar in the days since the fire.

"This incident shows how important alternative transportation is to California,'' Boxer said.

"We'll see if we can't reimburse the state for cost on transportation systems.''

Fielding questions about whether the kind of steel melted by the 8,600 gallons of fuel that engulfed the connector ramp and caused the structure to collapse will be available, Oberstar said there is no shortage of the American-made steel required for use in domestic funding projects such as this.

The southbound Interstate Highway 880 connector is expected to be reopened to traffic by May 12, according to Kempton.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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