Pontoon project costs increase by about $43 million

The state Department of Transportation plans to funnel an additional $42.65 million into the State Route 520 bridge replacement project through five change orders with bridge and pontoon construction contractors. The change orders won’t likely affect operations in the Aberdeen pontoon building site.

“Everything moves forward as planned with the construction in Aberdeen,” said state Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Suanne Pelley. “This just allows the money for it. They’re working away and doing what they need to do.”

Aberdeen crews are responsible for building 33 pontoons, 18 of which have been completed. The most recent cycle of pontoons departed the facility in October of 2013.

According to a press release from the agency, about $37.1 million of this funding will go toward the construction of redesigned pontoons, which will be built by contractor Kiewit-General Joint Venture.

“The original pontoon design included an unfortunate and costly mistake,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson during a Wednesday media briefing. “While the error discovered in 2012 is depleting most of the contingent reserve, we are proactively managing the remaining risks and don’t foresee the need for new funding sources to complete the work at hand and move our region closer to a safer, higher-capacity, multimodal 520 corridor.”

The Department of Transportation will likely approve an additional change order for the project next month, bringing the cost of the pontoon design error to about $200 million. Most of the needed construction funds will come from SR 520 polls and existing agency funds.

However, the state Legislature will need to approve the additional spending. Currently, SR 520 project funding — which will cover improvements between Medina and Redmond in addition to the bridge replacement — is legislatively capped at $2.72 billion. The Department of Transportation will work with the Legislature to change the program budget to $2.89 billion.

In 2012, the Department of Transportation discovered that four pontoons completed in early construction needed repairs and modifications as the result of a design flaw. All remaining pontoons required an updated design. Contractors have repaired two of the flawed pontoons and repairs on the remaining pontoons should be completed this spring, according to the press release.

When complete, the existing, 50-year-old SR 520 bridge spanning Lake Washington between Seattle and Bellevue will be completely replaced. The new bridge would include designated lanes for buses and high-occupancy vehicles, as well as a separate path for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The bridge is expected to open to traffic in late 2015 or early 2016.


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