State transportation officials stood by as planning costs for the Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing ballooned.
The freeway project Oregon and Washington want to build across the Columbia River has already cost taxpayers $136 million.
This cost comes largely from paying consultants to design, plan and push for the project, known as the Columbia River Crossing, or CRC.
The cost of the project has been reported before. But for the first time, it’s clear why those costs skyrocketed.
Documents reviewed by WW show that a single contract initially estimated at $20 million has climbed to $105 million.
The contract grew because Oregon and Washington officials kept rewarding the contractor, Portland-based David Evans and Associates, even though the firm had burned through its money long before finishing the work.
The costs include the price of working for years on a bridge design experts later said was unbuildable. The result: We now have a project that’s 18 months behind schedule and costs more than five times the original estimate.
Records show Oregon and Washington officials sent the cost of the original David Evans contract soaring, from $50 million to $95 million, with a single change to the deal. That change was done quietly and with little public scrutiny.
WashDOT Deputy Secretary David Dye insists both states’ transportation agencies monitored costs carefully and only approved expenditures after identifying specific, necessary tasks. “We have very rigorous internal processes,” Dye says.
He says the complexity of the planning process made sticking to the $20 million estimate impossible.
“The environmental process up front has so many variables, and there is so much that can happen,” Dye says. “It is very volatile and very difficult to estimate.”
The hidden story of this deal, called the master contract, doesn’t bode well for the $3.5 billion freeway project.
The CRC calls for building a new Interstate 5 bridge, widening the freeway, adding a series of ramps, and extending light rail from Portland to Vancouver.
The project is aimed at reducing the traffic congestion that now plagues I-5 near the Oregon-Washington border.
More:But as WW has reported, the CRC’s own documents show the project won’t solve traffic problems, and that state officials based their cost estimates on inaccurate traffic projections (“A Bridge Too False,” WW, June 1, 2011). WW has also reported that state officials continue to mislead the public about the number of jobs the project will create (“Not True, Times Ten,” WW, June 15, 2011).
As we all know by now, the scam to rebuild SR 520, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge to get lo0ot rail over THAT has headed far north of $400 million... with not one shovel of dirt getting turned... so we have a great distance to go before the local scammers catch up to our brethren in Seattle...
... but we seem to be working on it.