Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Wednesday, May 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 53° Clear

Spin Control

Bill would highlight transportation project mistakes

OLYMPIA – The state Transportation Department would have to report mistakes on projects that cost more than $500,000 and in some cases explain to the Legislature why the person responsible wasn’t fired, under a bill being considered by a House committee.

The proposal is partly in response to some high-profile mistakes on major projects, like leaky pontoons for a bridge over Lake Washington that might cost $100 million to fix and a proposed bridge over the Columbia River that wasn’t designed to be tall enough to let ships pass and may cost $30 million to redesign and build, Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, said. But a list provided to O’Ban from the Transportation Department showed some 14 projects over the last 10 years had mistakes costing a total of $29.2 million to fix.

O’Ban said the bill was about transparency and a greater level of accountability, not about punishment: "We need a process that forces the tough questions to be asked."

But representatives of the department and its engineers said those errors are already reported, and many of the bill’s requirements for oversight are already in place.

When a costly error happens, it's not usually a single person who makes the mistake, Vince Oliveri of the transportation workers union said. "It has more to do with the process."

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.