Transportation secretary: $170 million more needed for 520 Bridge

OLYMPIA -- State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said Wednesday that problems with construction of the new State Route 520 Bridge have soaked up the projected reserve fund and another $170 million will be needed to complete the project.

"We will exceed the reserve and the existing project budget," Peterson said at news briefing.

Washington State Department of Transportation design errors in several of the pontoons that will handle the new bridge caused cracks and leaking, and that soaked up the project's $250 million reserve fund.

"We certainly did not think when we projected out into the future that this reserve would have to take the risk and liability anywhere near the magnitude of the pontoon design error," said Peterson.

WSDOT now needs to increase the budget on the project by $170 million.

State lawmakers had capped the budget at $2.72 billion. WSDOT wants legislators to increase that to $2.89 billion.

"If we’re going to raise the cap whenever they request, what is the point of putting a cap in there?" asked state Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee.

Orcutt is concerned about how some of the big transportation projects are being managed in the state.

"We have got to make sure we don’t have these problems occurring in the future," said Orcutt. "The public is getting very tired of these cost over-runs, and eating into these projects and eating into their wallets."

Peterson believes WSDOT can cover the $170 million without raising taxes or toll rates.

The money will come from bonds funded through tolls and from WSDOT's overall budget, she said.  That could come at a cost for other, smaller transportation projects around the state.