Friday, January 10, 2014

We’ve encountered setbacks, but strive to move forward

A message from Secretary Lynn Peterson

WSDOT has been in the news a lot lately regarding Bertha and the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program and more recently, the 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program.

Some of that coverage has been light hearted and other coverage has been more serious and raised concerns about WSDOT’s management of our mega projects.

Our projects are complex. No other city or state in the nation has projects like these going on. We are building the widest bored tunnel in the world and one of the largest floating bridges in the world. We need these projects to improve how our residents commute to work, home and play.

As each of us knows, projects encounter obstacles. How many of us have been involved in a project – big or small; at home or at work – and have encountered setbacks? Our projects are no different; they are just bigger and in the public eye. What defines our agency and how our public views us is how we manage through these challenges. That’s what counts. That’s what matters.

We’ve made mistakes. Our 520 bridge pontoon design error resulted in depleting the majority of contingency funds for that project. I spoke about that on Wednesday. We are doing what we can to manage that error. We’ve identified existing funding sources to cover these costs and keep the project on track. At this time, we don’t foresee the need for any changes in tax rates, fees or toll rates to cover the increased costs from contract change orders.

Bertha is stopped. We knew she would encounter challenges as she makes her way north. We planned for obstacles in our budget. WSDOT has been transparent about how hard this tunneling work is and it will continue to be. I’m impressed by the public’s knowledge and interest in not only the project, but in Bertha herself. People asked me “How’s she doing?” not long after tunneling stopped. The answer is: Bertha will be fine.

I understand people’s fear that these large, visible projects will become a statistic and that we will make national headlines for failure. Failure is not an option. We need these projects to be successful to better serve you – our residents. We will continue to manage them well, be accountable, celebrate our successes and be transparent about our challenges.

WSDOT strives for transparency with the media and the public and this makes our agency and valued employees vulnerable to negativity. Transparency is hard and it doesn’t always feel good, but it’s the right thing. We can’t just talk about our successes. We – WSDOT, our employees and the public – need to talk about everything transportation related. The more you are engaged, the more you understand the opportunities and challenges we face as an agency and as a transportation system both now and in the future.

WSDOT has a responsibility to be good stewards of transportation dollars. We’ve made – and continue to make – changes (pdf) to how we do business to ensure efficiencies are made, that we manage well through our challenges and we ensure your tax dollars are accounted for and well spent.


Anonymous said...

You and your staff's mistakes are bordering on gross professional incompetence and seem to be the rule rather than the exception. Did anyone lose their job because of this? If it was the private sector, you could be sure they would have.

The Geezer said...

You write--We are building the widest tunnel in the world

Really? I can think of some just down the road in Canuckistan that are wider, eh?. George Massey tunnel is 4 lanes wide, ours it two lanes wide.

Is WSDOT pulling my leg again? It is adequately stretched, thank you.

WSDOT said...

You are correct Geez, we've changed the wording.

The Geezer said...

Of course I am correct, but not politically correct, please.

BTW, the George Massey Tunnel, which I was referencing, was opened in 1958 by no less than the Queen, and they are talking replacement/bridging/additional tunnels, now.

Why not rent them Bertha for that undertaking, we won't need it any more, and the soft muck under the river should be a piece-o-cake for her. Or for the CRC, no clearance problems.

Your bill is in the mail.

The Geezer, who is restoring his leg to the original length now that you have corrected the scrivner's error.

WSDOT said...

@anyonymous - WSDOT was responsible for designing the pontoons built under the SR 520 Pontoon Construction Project. A design error resulted in the concrete cracking and spalling in some of the pontoons built in Aberdeen, and the other bridge pontoons required a modified design. In response to the findings of an internal review, disciplinary actions were taken, including one staff termination and another demotion within the agency. Based on recommendations from an independent panel of experts, WSDOT also instituted a number of operational changes and reforms, including the appointment of a new chief engineer and deputy chief engineer to oversee megaprojects, and a detailed review of how WSDOT contracts for work and shares risk with contractors. Some of the reforms for improving project delivery and accountability have already been implemented, while others will require legislative action.

Anonymous said...

What is with WSDOT the last few years? Remember the Hwy. 16 error when they had to tear down part of that new project because of a design error? Idiots! And "risk reserve" fund is a nice way of saying you're blowing our tax dollars. That money could be saved and used for other projects correct? Money just blown. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

What about the huge mistake made in 2010 with the Hwy. 16 Sprague exit. Who are you guys hiring?

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