Hood Canal budget estimate skyrockets to $453 million

Peninsula Daily News

The ``forecast budget number'' to complete the Hood Canal Bridge replacement and refurbishment project has swelled by more than $150 million and now stands at nearly a half-billion dollars

The $453 million estimate includes $162 million to be spent through June 30 of this year, said Randy Hain, Olympic region administrator for the state Department of Transportation.

The cost of the entire rehabilitation project, including construction of a graving yard in Port Angeles to manufacture components for a new eastern half of the floating bridge, had been estimated at $283,556,335 last August.

That included a $204 million contract -- the largest single contract in state history -- to Kiewit-General Construction Co. of Poulsbo, awarded in 2003.

The $283.5 million figure was still listed Thursday on Transportation's Web site for the bridge project, www.hoodcanalbridge.com.

But new estimates, propelled by a 16-year transportation plan passed by the state Legislature last month, show that the bridge project's cost is swelling.

Losses in the partially completed Port Angeles graving yard -- halted in December after hundreds of Klallam burials were found in the remains of a 2,700-year-old tribal village -- were estimated at $58.8 million by Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald in January.

Other project uncertainties, including where bridge pontoons and anchors will be built, have left Transportation officials with a virtual guessing game.

``Many issues have yet to be resolved. So we forecast the range of those costs,'' Hain said.

The Legislature's new transportation package, which calls for a phased-in, 9.5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase, includes $291 million to pay Hood Canal Bridge project costs in fiscal 2005-07, in addition to the $162 million to pay project costs in the 2003-05 biennium that ends June 30.

But the whole project may not necessarily end up costing $453 million, the total of those two figures, Hain cautioned.

``The terminology I'd use is the forecast budget number to complete the project,'' he said.


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