transportation
5:00 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Bill calls for reports to lawmakers on costly WSDOT errors

Big mistakes made on the design and construction of pontoons for the new 520 floating bridge could lead to tougher reporting requirements for the Washington state Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers want more transparency and accountability when it comes to costly mistakes. Repairs to cracks in the new 520 pontoons, for example, are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

State Rep. Steve O’Ban, a Republican from University Place, says he was surprised to learn that there is no official  system to analyze big errors like these made by the state Department of Transportation.

His bill would require a report to the Legislature on engineering mistakes that cost half a million dollars or more. The report would have to lay out how it happened, who was responsible and what disciplinary action was taken.

“We need a process that really forces the tough questions to be asked," O'Ban told the House Transportation Committee as he introduced the bill. "I think the taxpayer demands that, expects that and particularly at a time when we are thinking about going before the taxpayers and asking them to pay more in gas taxes than they already have, after a very difficult economic downturn.”

Representatives from the Transportation Department say they do provide regular reports on change orders, but nothing specifically focused on errors made. They agreed changes are needed.

In the run-up to the hearing, transportation staff generated a list of engineering mistakes from the past 10 years that were costly enough to fall under the proposed legislation. They add up to nearly $30 million on 14 projects.

The amount doesn’t include fixing problems with the 520 pontoons or the new Columbia River Crossing, each of which will likely cost at least that much.