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WSDOT: 520 bridge mistakes devouring project's safety net

The WSDOT says mistakes are eating up most of the contingency fund for the 520 bridge replacement. (WSDOT Flickr)

State transportation leaders put the cost of its design errors on the 520 bridge pontoons at $208 million. The mistakes are eating up most of the project's contingency fund.

Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson announced Wednesday she's adding $170 million to the cost of the project to account for future changes and to increase the reserve. She said the added costs will come from existing revenue sources, specifically tolls.

"We can secure a large majority of the needed revenue from existing capacity in the current toll rate structure," she explained.

Dori Monson: "I still want to know was all the beer they were drinking during the design the reason they're $200 million over budget already on this thing?" Listen: Dori's reaction

That doesn't mean higher tolls. It means the state will bond against toll revenue.

The state announced it executed five change orders in late December with its pontoon contractor totaling $2.65 million. Some of the first pontoons to arrive on Lake Washington were cracked and leaking and the state admitted the problem was its own design flaws.

Peterson told state lawmakers that the 520 change orders are devouring most of the bridge project's $250 million dollar contingency reserve. With $800 million of construction to come, she said the project needs to add $170 million to cover future change orders and to increase the reserve, pending legislative approval. Peterson wants to raise the spending cap on the 520 project from $2.72 billion to $2.9 billion.

When questioned by a legislator during a joint transportation committee hearing in Olympia, Peterson conceded that the 520 construction might also poach some money from other state highway projects, but she promised to minimize that impact.

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About the Author

Tim Haeck is a news reporter with KIRO Radio. While Tim is one of our go-to, no-nonsense reporters, he also has a sensationally dry sense of humor and it will surprise some to learn he is a weekend warrior.


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