KOMO 4 News has filed suit against the Washington State Department of Transportation to release documents detailing repair costs for the new 520 Bridge pontoons. The TV station broke news last fall about pontoon leaks that have delayed the project and increased costs. Now they want numbers:
When we asked WSDOT for more recent construction reports, we got page after page after page of reports with blacked out – or redacted – numbers. Now KOMO and the Problem Solvers are suing the state, asking for complete cost reports.
Now our insider sources tell us that, in spite of extensive repairs, cracks in the bottom of at least some of those pontoons are getting worse. So now the state is considering a brand-new fix – using steel tendons to tighten the pontoons side to side, called ‘post-tensioning’ – and hopefully seal the persistent cracks. WSDOT Construction Engineer Jeff Carpenter told us, “so if we put the post-tensioning on, that’s an option that we feel very confidant will give us a good solution.”
KOMO suspects, but can’t confirm, that pontoon repair work has so far totaled tens of millions of dollars. Recently, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond told state legislators, “when there’s a design flaw – we own it.” As repair work is on-going, she declined to talk specifics on added costs. A WSDOT response to the issue released yesterday states:
As we have mentioned since these issues first arose in spring 2012, WSDOT will be working directly with the design-build contractors for the pontoon and floating bridge projects to evaluate responsibility and assignment of costs within the two projects. This will be a complicated negotiation process. As stewards of taxpayer funds, we simply cannot publically assign any costs until negotiations are complete.
Regarding the overall project budget, WSDOT does claim costs are under control:
Through WSDOT’s Cost Estimate Validation Process (CEVP), the SR 520 Program established a risk reserve. The risk reserve, project contingencies, and project savings total $250 million in available reserves for the entire SR 520 program. Of that, approximately $50 million has been spent in executed change orders, which provides approximately $200 million remaining in reserves.