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New SR 520 Bridge: A year late and millions of dollars more

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SEATTLE — The state said Tuesday it has spent $80 million on fixes for cracked pontoons on the new State Route 520 Bridge project and more is expected in the months to come. Oh yeah, and the project will take at least a year longer.

The amount needed to fix the pontoons could reach twice the amount already spent.

But state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said no additional taxpayer money will be needed to cover these costs.

“The change orders are paid from the SR 520 contingency reserves, which are included in the program’s overall $2.7 billion construction budget, and were established to address issues just like these,” she said.

That reserve fund started at $200 million and now has about $100 million left for remaining pontoon repairs and other potential problems.

On Tuesday, the Washington State Department of Transportation also outlined the steps it has taken to prevent this kind of embarrassment in the future, including the firing of the head bridge engineer earlier this year.

“WSDOT has acknowledged responsibility for the pontoon design error  that led to the repairs we’re performing now and the agency has taken major steps to insure these types of issues are not repeated,” Peterson said.

“WSDOT has commissioned internal reviews of the history and character of decisions that were made that led to these issues,” she added.

The new 520 bridge was originally slated to open late next year, but the state said that because of the pontoon problem, that opening has been delayed at least a year and possibly as late as early 2016.

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