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WSDOT: Pontoon Cracks Will Push 520 Bridge Completion to 2015

The state plans to spend tens of millions of dollars in contingency funds to repair existing cracks and prevent future flaws from occurring.

The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will need to spend tens of millions of dollars in contingency funds to repair pontoon cracks and modify design plans for the new 520 Bridge.

Speaking at a news conference in Seattle, outgoing state transportation secretary Paula Hammond said the repairs and modifications will likely push the bridge's completion into 2015. 

“The most important thing to us is to make sure the pontoons are safe, sound and serve the public,” she said.

The changes are the result of findings by an expert review panel that was formed in 2012 to address cracking and spalling on the first batch of pontoons constructed in Aberdeen. Based on the panel's recommendations, WSDOT plans to incorporate additional post-tensioning—a process that uses steel tendons to compress and strengthen the concrete—to the construction of future pontoons, as well as retrofit the pontoons that have already been built.

Hammond said the exact cost for the repairs is not known at this point, as WSDOT is currently negotiating change orders for the work with contractor Kiewit/General/Manson. But the transportation secretary said she is confident the state will not exhaust its remaining $200 million in contingency funding for the project.

Hammond blamed much of the problem on design mistakes within WSDOT and said some of the agency's structural engineers failed to run models that would have highlighted the flaws. "It's possible," she said, that some WSDOT personnel will lose their jobs because of the errors, adding that managers are currently examining the findings of an internal review on the matter.

Originally scheduled to be completed in December 2014, the new six-lane SR 520 Bridge is part of a $4.65 billion plan to improve SR 520 from Seattle to Redmond. The bridge has been designed to last at least 75 years and must open to drivers by July 2015 in order to adhere to the state's contract.

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What's your reaction to the design mistakes and construction delay? Tell us in the comments section.

Don Burrows February 26, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Am I incorrect in thinking that KOMO, or perhaps it was KIRO, played a MAJOR role in bringing this to the attention of both the public and Olympia? I only read the article once, but did not see any mention of their efforts. Have I missed something? Don Burrows -
Doug McKiernan February 26, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Another well run WSDOT project. Ridiculous.
ErinA February 26, 2013 at 11:36 PM
For some strange reason, I am having trouble replying... It was KOMO.
Charles P. Johnston February 27, 2013 at 12:23 AM
$200,000,000 in the contingency fund? The Kingdome didn't cost that much. These were the same mistakes that WSDOT made in the original bridge built in 1962! What, if anything, have they learned except how to spend more money that we have?
John Hughes February 27, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Didn't I hear on the news the general contractor is using a different mix design ie: materials for the pontoons than what was spec'd? Now the taxes payers get to pay. Another fine job by WDOT.
Ken Lottis February 27, 2013 at 01:21 AM
These are the same people who bought a flawed tolling system for the new Narrows Bridge. Then repeated the same mistake with a flawed tolling system for the 520 Bridge. Now they have leaky pontoons. And they want to toll I-90?
Ken Lottis February 27, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Amazing. These are the people who bought a flawed tolling system for the new Narrows Bridge. Then repeated the process with another flawed tolling system for the 520 Bridge. Now they are giving us pontoons that leak...and they want to toll I -90?
Bonnie Mutton February 27, 2013 at 03:18 AM
Love the line, "It's possible" that some WSDOT personnel will lose their jobs because of the errors, adding that managers are currently examining the findings of an internal review on the matter. What is the contractor's fiscal responsibility in all of this?? This is disgraceful. A waste of MY money!!!
Caitlin Moran February 27, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Hi Bonnie, thanks for the comment. Hammond said at the press conference that WSDOT is currently in the process of negotiating change orders with Kiewit/General/Manson (the contractor), and that the first change order should be completed next month. My guess is there will be some indication of who's paying how much at that time. More details here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2013/02/26_SR520_PontoonsUpdate.htm
Ron Snedeker February 27, 2013 at 05:12 AM
No big deal---it's just the taxpayers money and we will just toll more roads to pay for it so we can screw up more projects. "Possibly" some might lose their jobs, are you kidding me? No wonder we don't have much faith in government run jobs. If this happened in the private sector there would be a lot of heads rolling!!
Edwin February 27, 2013 at 05:47 PM
I saw a report that cement and concrete was imported from China. So much for jobs creation in Washington. Now we are going to patch cracks? Also 200 Million in contingencies is 5% of the project so not so unusual Also do not forget the massive $$ for public art/parks/bike and ped lanes. But please write your legislators and tell them you oppose HOT lanes on I405 and feel the RTA is out of control with spending. We pay 0.9% sales tax and an auto excise tax for mass transit and this does not include METRO. The RTA is an organization that passes audits year after year yet is behind schedule, over budget, and not producing sustainable revenue for the infrastructure they have produced. And don't forget the fact that voters continued to approve a Seattle monorail to which wasted $100 million dollars and what was left went to METRO. Mass transit is over hyped and under used unless one is in the City going directly to a City. For Eastside commuters town to town or to get to the airport forget it I'll drive. Even in worst rush hour it is about the same speed.
Thomas Imrich February 27, 2013 at 08:43 PM
And just where was Ms. Clibborn's oversight of Ms. Hammond, and WSDOT, in all this WSDOT $200M or more pontoon "mistake" mess??? Besides setting the horrible national precedent now, of tapping the nation's interstates via tolling of our I-90 bridges, perhaps Ms. Clibborn's naive solution for the 520 bridge will be something like telling the 520 bridge to just "take two Asprin",and call her on monday? But wait... "There's more!!!... the tunnel to nowhere, and our new light rail train will be next. Mark my words. It is long past time for another change in our representatives.
snoozingdog February 27, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Whether it's budgeted or toll, we're paying for it aren't we? This begs the question how much has been set aside in an (in)Compentency Fund as opposed to a Contingency Fund. I mean it's not like we're trying to build an airplane to fly, just a bridge to float across the lake. It's not rocket science, it's concrete. I have this sinking feeling.
Braunzie February 28, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Fire these people and stop the project.

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