The state is almost ready to close the books on construction of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge, a project that will end up costing $114 million less than expected.
The final price tag: $735 million.
The estimated cost in 2002: $849 million.
“The project team was very conscious of the budget and did everything to keep the cost down and not dip into the contingency fund unless they needed to,” Lloyd Brown, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Friday.
The project didn’t run into as many emergencies as the agency hedged against when it built the budget in 2002, and the DOT staged its borrowing to pay for construction as money was needed, he said.
The Legislature authorized the DOT to borrow as much as $800 million for the bridge project, but the agency will have borrowed only $691 million by the time the job is finished, Brown said.
Still, the lower costs won’t have any immediate impact on tolls.
The basic toll is still scheduled to increase from $3 to $4 in mid-2009, to $5 in mid-2012 and to $6 in mid-2015. But tolls would have been higher if the project cost had been higher.
Meanwhile, the bridge project is moving rapidly toward completion.
Ron Landon, DOT bridge project manager, said he expects the concrete barrier on the old bridge to be removed by the end of the month. That will open the 1950-era bridge to four lanes of traffic, the same as the four lanes on the new bridge.
“That’s the next big milestone,” he said. “And that would constitute substantial completion. There are a couple issues left. We’ve got a problem with one of the elevators and the pavement isn’t as smooth as it’s supposed to be. But those will be wrapped up no later than April.”
Landon said the total payment to Tacoma Narrows Constructors, the bridge builder, is expected to be $628 million for design and construction. That’s an increase of $13 million over the $615 million contract that was signed in June 2002 because it includes change orders that were approved by the state, he said.
The overall project cost is settling out at $735 million because it includes the toll system design and installation, and construction management and oversight by the DOT, as well as pre-2002 design costs and something called “capitalized interest.” That’s the interest that accrued on the money the state borrowed over the 41/2-year construction period, before the state was able to start collecting tolls and making payments.
The way those loans were structured is how the state realized most of its savings – about $70 million, Brown said.
The state also needed only $30 million of the $55 million it set aside in a contingency fund for emergencies, he said. That contingency fund was used to build the 14th Street onramp to Highway 16 for Good To Go transponder vehicles, and for the landscaping to deal with the glare from the golf driving range along the highway.
Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436
NIFTY NUMBERS estimated cost in 2002 of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge project final price tag price difference
Tolls stay the same now mid-2009 mid-2012 mid-2015