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SDOT: Streetcar project is, perhaps, an example of poor management

The cost of the Seattle streetcar continues to balloon. (SDOT)

The interim director of Seattle’s Department of Transportation admits the latest streetcar project that appears to be over budget was mismanaged.

RELATED: Seattle Mayor Durkan halts streetcar expansion

SDOT Interim Director Goran Sparrman says he doesn’t know how much the project will actually cost.

“Frankly, this is an example of probably … how a project perhaps should not have been managed. And council should be aware that I’m looking at project management overall inside the department.”

Up to six months could pass before we know whether or not Seattle’s latest streetcar project will move forward.

On Friday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a stop order on the project after “too many questions” were raised about the actual cost of the project.

Council members want to know exactly when the city became aware of the huge gap in the estimated cost of the project, and the actual cost.

“How did we get here?” Councilmember Debora Juarez asked.

With lawyers standing by, Juarez was told it’s a question she would only get in executive session.

Councilmember Rob Johnson noted that he would rather the city pause the project now than a year from now.

“We’ve caught something before we started major construction … ” he said.

The project broke ground in October. However, the work that actually began was utility work. The city was still “sitting on” two bids, which will be canceled, according to Goran Sparrman, the interim director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. Officials will look at the contract for the actual streetcars in terms of obligations, Sparrman said, adding SDOT will work with the law department on that.

The project had an initial price tag of $150 million. The latest estimate is $200 million when factoring in all the work surrounding the project.

Additionally, King County Metro, which will actually run the system, argues the operating cost is much higher than the assumed $16 million by SDOT.

If the city decides to eventually move forward with the project, it will cost more to get it started back up. For instance, the city will have to re-bid for projects.

The Center City Connector Streetcar project is planned to connect the city’s two lines together with 1.2 additional miles of track. SDOT estimated the connection will result in thousands more riders per day.

City Attorney Pete Holmes assured the council that their questions will be answered.

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