Washington's Department of Transportation may be admitting its mistakes with the 520 Bridge but it's you, the taxpayers, who will wind up paying for those mistakes.
The KOMO 4 Problem Solvers sued the state, and won, to get information about how much those mistakes will cost us. After digging into the public records, we've discovered the total is already well over $100 million.
"Clearly, this is beginning to spiral out of control," said Washington Policy Center's Vice President Paul Guppy, an organization that advocates for taxpayers on issues of public policy.
The numbers also surprise Eva Zemplenyi with the "No Tolls on I-90' group,"
"We feel that we have not been given the straight story," she said.
The new 520 bridge -- at a total projected cost of $4.1 billion dollars was already the most expensive public works project in the state. WSDOT gleefully pointed to cost-savings as contract bids came in low and federal grants saved other money. But most of those savings will never make it to taxpayers -- and you can blame it on the problems we first uncovered with the pontoons.
For months, a Problem Solver investigation has spotlighted problems with cracks and leaks in the massive floating concrete structures that will hold up the new bridge. But WSDOT refused to tell us how much repairing those pontoons will cost. This week, out-going Secretary Paula Hammond reiterated the agency's position, "we cannot and will not negotiate the financial settlement with the contractor in the media."
KOMO 4 News sued WSDOT for those documents and finally received them: weeklyrReports for all three current contracts involved in 520 construction. Two of them involve those troubled pontoons and are with prime contractor Kiewit.
As of last November: Projections for extra costs to build the pontoons in Aberdeen and to repair the pontoons out on Lake Washington hit a stunning $86.4 million dollars.
When we added the projected extra costs for the third contract with Eastside cCorridor construction which is connecting 520 to the Eastside, as well as the extra costs the state's already agreed to pay it adds up to a shocking $153.8 million dollars.
"We're concerned about who's in charge overseeing that the costs don't go out of control," said Washington Policy Center's Guppy.
Guppy adds it may be time for new Governor Jay Inslee to call a timeout - and do a top to bottom review of the 520 project.
"Taking a pause may be a way for them to get a handle on these problems," he said.
At the same time, the legislature wants to add tolls on I-90 to help pay for the 520 bridge -- unpopular at any time -- but with these mounting costs?
"I think it should bother every single user of I-90 and every single user of 520 because all of us are going to have to pay," Zemplenyi said.
Zemplenyi also believes it's time for a re-set on the 520 bridge project, saying, " I think that they need to take a time out as to building the pontoons and seeing what's happening there."
WSDOT says the 520 project started with a $250 million dollar contingency fund. Their own projections show that as of last November as much as $153 million is already accounted for. At the same time the project still has not finalized a contract for the fourth and final section of the corridor through Seattle and connecting to Interstate 5. And the 520 bridge is still more than two years away from completion.
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