Roads

Oregon Holds Party for Finally Completed Highway Project That Cost Three Times as Much as It Was Supposed to

The state spent $365 million and over a decade to build five miles of rural highway.

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Trail Signage
Sasquatch I / Flickr

On October 1 the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) held a "play on the grade" event to celebrate the completion of its long-delayed, incredibly overbudget Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville Highway project.

About 800 taxpayers showed up for the event, where they were given the opportunity to walk, bike, and in one instance even segway up and down the 5.5-mile stretch of road that had cost them $365 million and over a decade of mismanagment and delays to complete, making it the most expensive highway project in Oregon history.

Of course this was neither the due date nor the price tag presented to Oregonians when ODOT first broke ground on the project back in 2005. At the time, the department had awarded California-based Granite Construction a $133 million contract to complete the job by 2009.

But a number of poor choices made by ODOT right from the get-go in how the project would be contracted out, built, and funded conspired to ensure that these goals were drastically overshot.

First was the department's decision to allocate only two months to the bidding process in hopes of meeting an application deadline for $30 million in federal funding. All three contractors who submitted bids complained that this was an inordinately short window in which to design and submit proposals, with one even telling ODOT it was likely to result in an end product of "compromised quality."

Second was ODOT's formula for evaluating bids, which favored cost savings over quality metrics, resulting in the candidate with the lowest-quality bid (by the department's own evaluation) and who did the least to mitigate against geotechnical risks getting the contract.

Third was the decision to carry out the project with less invasive but also less terrain-appropriate bridges, as opposed to culverts, over the area's fish-bearing streams in the hopes of avoiding lengthy protests and legal battles with conservation groups.

These decisions—all intended to save ODOT time and money—instead left it shelling out an extra $230 million for a project that was completed seven years past its promised delivery date.

From the beginning of the construction phase, the "compromised quality" of project's design was made apparent. Landslides, foreseen by other contractors but poorly planned for in Granite's bid, caused significant delays. Efforts to speed up the process through more rapid clearing led to massive soil erosion, earning both Granite and ODOT record-breaking fines from the state's Department of Environmental Quality.

Finally, in 2012, after three years of work stoppages and some $61 million in additional payments to Granite, ODOT released the company from the contract (something Granite had asked for back in 2007) and took over the project itself. One of its first actions was to demolish those untenable bridges it had insisted on in the first place—bridges that had cost $17.6 million to build.

This uneven project history stands in contrast to the festive atmosphere at the recent "play on the grade" event. By all accounts those that turned up enjoyed making use of their new road, and hearing talks from a number of local politicos, including U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat, about this latest investment in Oregon's future.

When questioned about whether such a celebratory event was warranted, ODOT Public Information Officer Angela Beyer-Seydell said it was something the community had asked for. Residents apparently wanted to know why the highway had taken so long to complete. I doubt they got a complete answer from the ODOT officials—including one dressed as bigfoot—who were on hand to explain many of the expensively redesigned features of this long-awaited, finally completed, very expensive stretch of road.

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  1. Roadz!

    1. wait…wait.
      You’re crazy. I like you, but you’re crazy.

      Bureaucrats are stupid?

      1. You wish.

        The incentive for any given bureaucrat is with regards to what helps their tiny piece of the mosaic. That being more funds and more security. They get veyr good at defending that piece of turf and keeping things the way that benefits them, because the system allows for it. The agregate is that the agency goal cannot be achieved, but you have a lot of well armored pillbox fiefdoms to demolish if you want to change anything.

        1. I took a class to become a paralegal many, many years ago. The main thing i remember is that the textbook defined “bureaucracy” and “professionalism” as incompatible opposites.

          1. the textbook defined “bureaucracy” and “professionalism” as incompatible opposites.

            I doubt they got a complete answer from the ODOT officials?including one dressed as bigfoot?

            [Emphasis added] I’d say your textbook was spot on.

  2. the 5.5-mile stretch of road that had cost them $365 million and over a decade of mismanagment and delays to complete, making it the most expensive highway project in Oregon history.

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

    *high fives all around*

    1. ODOT record-breaking fines from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

      The state DOT was fined? Well, I wonder who ends up paying for that? Are they having a bake sale?

      1. They held it at the celebration.

      2. Fining yourself is better than breaking windows, for boosting the economy….right?

  3. These people are pikers. The Big Dig cost 6 times more than the original estimate (10 times if you add the interest).

    1. Yeah, but they found a buried alien spaceship! Oh wait… that was a big rock. But in defense of that error, who expects to find rocks under the ground?, weird…

      1. I cant think of a good tremors quote for this, but i know theres a few

        1. “That’s how they get you. They’re under the goddamn ground!”

  4. At least someone built a road! Checkmate, libertarians.

    1. Typical statist shell game. First the government makes it illegal for anyone else to build roads, so that even something as trivial as repaving a driveway requires a big fat “Mother may I” permit. Then pro-government apologists smugly claim “See! Only government is capable of building roads!” confident in the knowledge that the only counterexamples left standing are odd cases from long ago or far away.

      It’s a classic, like the man who killed his parents and then begged the court for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.

      1. Then pro-government apologists smugly claim “See! Only government is capable of building roads!”

        And proceed to ignore flagrant abuses of the public purse like Oregon’s case.

  5. I think the cost per mile of the 2nd Ave subway is like $3 billion

    Of course, they aren’t done, so consider that just the opening bid

    Worth a read
    http://www.politico.com/states…..ble-000000

  6. I definitely want these guys in charge of my healthcare.

  7. 91% of roads lead to Michael Hihn.

    1. The roadz to Hihn are paved with bold intentions.

      1. BOLD AND ALL CAPS – justified by BULLIES unprovoked AGGRESSION.

  8. “libertarians hate real job creation!”

    If only the state could build more roads like this our economy would be booming

    1. Yeah, that’s 7 extra years of employment for the workers on the project!

    2. Imagine how many jobs would have been created and sustained if the state mandated the work be down entirely with tools like shovels, picks and horse-drawn carts.

      1. Don’t worry, Trump is bringing back the horse-drawn cart industry.

        1. He’s on it like a bitch.

    3. Support “Broken Windows” economic policy!

  9. how many endangered peat snails did this massacre?

    1. What snails? The right palms were greased, we don’t need no stinkin snails!

  10. ODOT officials?including one dressed as bigfoot?who were on hand

    What fun! Oregon *rocks*!

    1. “ODOT officials?including one dressed as bigfoot”

      STEVE SMITH NOT IMPRESSED. SEE IMMINENT RAPE OF ODOT OFFICIALS.

      1. I bet Oregon has some woodchippers ready at hand.

  11. I hear tell there was a hihnfection and it went full on Tony level retard. Never go full on Tony.

  12. Makes me embarrassed to be from the Beaver State.

  13. Imagine how many jobs would have been created and sustained if the state mandated the work be down entirely with tools like shovels, picks and horse-drawn carts.

    The Center For American Progress would like to offer you a fellowship.

    1. No, Somalia will come to me.

      1. It’s not just authoritarian dystopia, it’s *trans-national* authoritarian dystopia!

        1. You shouldn’t have to live in a third world country to be immersed in third world governance and culture. It’s just not fair, there’s enough stagnation and tyranny for everyone.

  14. Ironically, the party they threw to celebrate this accomplishment cost 10X the initial projection.

    1. And it was late…

      1. The caterers are PubSec Unionistas; it’s in the contract.

  15. Maryland Route 200 took a half century to build and became so expensive that it eventually had to be built as a tollway.

  16. The state spent $365 million and over a decade to build five miles of rural highway.

    You know what else cost $1047.41 per inch?

    1. A very expensive gigolo?

    2. Stark Tower rebuild?

  17. Fast
    Good
    Cheap

    Pick any two!

    1. They got none of the above.

      1. Because they tried for all three.

        1. *WHOOOSH*

          right over his head…

  18. Yikes. But a pittance compared to the delays and cost overruns of every nuclear power plant.

    “The long-mothballed Watts Bar power plant in eastern Tennessee, initially budgeted at $2.5 billion, will cost up to $2 billion more , the Tennessee Valley Authority concluded this spring.”

      1. wiki

        In response to severe damage to Japan’s Fukushima-Daichi nuclear facility as a result of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the NRC issued 9 orders to improve safety at domestic plants. Two applied to Watts Bar Unit 2 and required design modifications: “Mitigation Strategies Order”[6] and “Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation Order”.[7] In February 2012, TVA said the design modifications to Watts Bar 2 were partially responsible for the project running over budget and behind schedule.[1] The plant cost a total of US$4,700,000,000.[8]

        1. and likely:

          *WHOOOSH*

          right over his head…

          1. From TVAs own analysis

            “Four major factors resulted in the extended schedule and higher cost estimates, the ETC suggests: project leadership, original estimate, project execution and project oversight.”

            Note in the wiki article the word “partial” and TVA itself not even mentioning Fukushima.

            And note the two whooshing sounds…that’s reading comprehension skills going over both of your heads.

            1. So the major factors resulting in the cost overruns are that a government agency can’t properly estimate the cost of a project or properly drive it to completion. Thanks for providing a fantastic argument for getting them out of the power generation game.

              1. You’re welcome. But it’s nearly every nuclear plant. Here is another that you’ll like

                http://www.powermag.com/even-m…..expansion/

          2. And by the way, Fukushima did in fact happen and it was a catastrophe. Only in a libertarian world would we not expect to learn from that disaster and install safety improvements in any new nuclear plant.

            1. Serious question, did you take Microeconomics in college?

            2. What the fuck are you yammering about, joe?

            3. Yeah, because the Tennessee Valley is a ripe target for tsunamis.

    1. Thank God for cheap, clean-burning natural gas plants, amiright

    2. I’m having trouble understanding what your point here is.

      1. Example.

        A taxpayer-funded New Bedford marine terminal ? set to be the construction staging area for a controversial offshore wind farm ? is $10 million over budget, according to state officials, raising concerns among fiscal watchdogs that the project’s costs will balloon out of control.
        “This will be another $10 million sucked into the black hole of Cape Wind,” said Greg Sullivan, a former state inspector general now at the Pioneer Institute. “Homeowners have already been coerced into paying three times market rate per kilowatt hour to finance the project on top of hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies. Isn’t that enough?”
        The South Coast Marine Commerce Terminal is scheduled to be finished by the end of the month, but officials at the state agency overseeing the facility won’t say when dredging work at the site will be complete.

        Are you suggesting that government management might not be the way to go here? Just curious. Because if you wanna step into the ring on “overbudget” discussions, I’ll go bare fucking knuckles on that fight.

        1. Reason just brought up how bad cost overruns are, and I busted added to the “analysis” even larger cost overruns.

          I didn’t argue their point wasn’t valid. Feel free to say mine is. Feel free to add your exames of worse cost overruns.

          1. I guess you have to define your goals. If a nuclear plant goes 200% over budget but actually produces power for tens or hundreds of thousands of homes, but a wind energy project goes 40% over budget, but the only thing it can power is Al Gore’s ego, then which one is the more desirable option?

            1. My goal here was to agree with Reason about cost overruns, and how bad they can be, and to provide one more example.

              Kind of funny that for the readership here they have selective outrage about that topic.

              1. Worse than SIV complaining about a lack of Hillary content when Reason runs a Trump story.

                They’re both awful. End of story.

      2. ‘Cause a brother can do this shit all day.

        A wind power project on Sable Island off Nova Scotia is over budget and remains at a standstill more than a decade after the federal government launched the initiative.

        Environment Canada began a pilot project in 2000 that was supposed to see five wind turbines generate energy onto the grid of the crescent-shaped sandbar known for its wild horses, sand dunes and fragile environment.

        But 13 years later, the development has yet to bring electricity onto the island’s grid, is marred by cost overruns of more than $330,000 and its future is in doubt.

        I mean, if your beef is with Nuclear… ok, yeah, there are absolutely safety concerns. But if your beef is with budgeting, sure, taxpayers are spending kajillions on the Miracle of Wind Technology, powering literally tens of homes across the nation!

      3. Privately built plant A costs 5.7% more than expected, final construction delayed by seven months.
        Privately built plant B costs 6.3% more than expected, final construction is eight months ahead of schedule.
        Gov’t built plant C costs 80% more than expected, construction completed 4 years behind schedule.

        Apparently this means that it is imperative that we immediately stop the construction of all new nuclear plants to appease the angry climate.

  19. Of course this was neither the due date nor the price tag presented to Oregonians when ODOT first broke ground on the project back in 2005

    I have been told by reliable sources that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

  20. Holy shit Oregon! That’s over 2 years and $66 million per mile. I think the standard cost per mile is $2-3 million for that type of highway. The bridges will bump up the cost but the initial budget was already $133 million. And only to cut off 10 miles of curvy road?

    This is not how the West was won.

    1. That’s because the West was won by killing Indians and such. This is an investment regardless of over runs!

      Amsoc or Tony. Take your pick.

    2. Well, this is the state where you can’t pump your own gas so someone can have a minimum wage job.

  21. Residents apparently wanted to know why the highway had taken so long to complete. I doubt they got a complete answer from the ODOT officials?including one dressed as bigfoot

    STEVE SMITH WORK FOR ODOT. STEVE SMITH LIKE RAPING OREGON TAX PAYERS!!11!!!!!!

  22. Second was ODOT’s formula for evaluating bids, which favored cost savings over quality metrics

    I want you all to pay close attention to that sentence.

    This is EXACTLY how single payer health care works.

    It’s cost-centric. Not patient centric.

    Quality of care WILL diminish.

    But hey. ALL IS FAIR, right?

    Drink!

    1. As long as private insurance is outlawed, like in the glorious DPROK, then everyone will have the same shitty healthcare. Because equality.

    2. Imagine what the HIGH bids looked like.

  23. You would not believe the amount of Keynesian spending that occurs in our system. This is just the big visible part. The people who clamor for more have no idea how much we already waste. Nor do they want to.

  24. Really difficult for me to understand it

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