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WSDOT admits major mistakes and costly repairs for 520 pontoon fix

Washington State Department of Transportation officials admitted Tuesday a number of mistakes were made in the construction of pontoons for the new 520 bridge, and it\'ll cost at least tens of millions to fix them.(WSDOT image)

Washington State Department of Transportation officials admitted Tuesday a number of mistakes were made in the construction of pontoons for the new 520 bridge, and it'll cost at least tens of millions to fix them.

Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond told reporters fixing the cracks found in the pontoons built in Aberdeen will likely delay completion of the project beyond the December 2014 target date to open the new floating bridge, likely pushing into 2015.

Hammond said while she doesn't know if the costs will reach $100 million, she feels confident they won't approach the $200 million the state has left in its contingency fund. She said negotiations with the contractors are underway.

Hammond also announced WSDOT is making repairs and design modifications to ensure a 75-year lifespan for the bridge.

While an expert review panel determined the pontoons are structurally sound, it found the department did not follow proper standards to validate the pontoon design elements and did not strictly follow protocols for oversight on the construction site, according to the new findings released Tuesday.

"The results of our internal review show that we did not follow standards of good practice to validate the pontoon design elements, and as an engineer, that is particularly frustrating," Hammond continued. "We also did not strictly follow some of our protocols for oversight and administration of the contract on the construction site."

Hammond also said WSDOT would take disciplinary action against staffers who approved the bridge design without doing computer testing that would have predicted the cracking.

"I agree with the internal review findings that there were technical design, construction management, and decision-making failures by our employees and managers," said Hammond. "I am directing WSDOT's chief of staff to prepare the appropriate disciplinary actions, and make the necessary changes to agency protocols and practices."

Hammond is leaving office March. 8. She'll be replaced by Lynn Peterson, an Oregon highway engineer and government adviser appointed last week by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

About the Author


Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.

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