Seattle highway project skids out of control

  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
  • Comment on this story

Washington state’s auditor, responding to a whistleblower complaint, found that a road widening project on Highway 18, southeast of Seattle, cost taxpayers $98.5 million, even though it was approved by the Department of Transportation at an original bid of $55.9 million in 2003.

A state Department of Transportation worker called the runaway costs to the attention of the state auditor, who agreed that the public works project unnecessarily wasted large amounts of taxpayer funds, according to a story in The Seattle Times.

The report, which was released on Monday, said in part, “Based on our investigation … we find reasonable cause to believe an improper governmental action occurred. We found … failures in the design process, a lack of control and oversight during construction, failure to monitor wetland areas that resulted in environmental violations and fines. This resulted in a gross waste of public funds.”

The project included bridges and retaining walls, and was located in a wetlands area. The highway was widened to four lanes, over a distance of 21 miles.

The state auditor blamed most of the cost of the overruns on design mistakes, payroll errors, sloppy work and what was called “constantly changing environmental regulations.” The report said that workers regularly dumped logs and other debris in environmentally sensitive areas, resulting in fines of nearly $200,000.

The project was also doomed from the start in some respects, since the original design was based on digital three-dimensional aerial models, which proved to be inaccurate in the heavily wooded areas. Much of the design work in those areas had to be reworked.

During the course of the 5 year project, 156 change orders were issued by the DOT.

“This was a case where we fully recognized that we had problems with the project,” said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond of the auditor’s investigation into the project. “This wasn’t new news for us.”

  • expose this
  • Share
  • Bookmark to Delicious
  • Bookmark to StumbleUpon
Comment on this Article:

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.