No one was more surprised than the members of The News Tribune’s editorial board to read Saturday of a $890,000 mistake on the Nalley Valley viaduct project.
The reason: Not four weeks ago, Department of Transportation chief Paula Hammond and Olympic region administrator Kevin Dayton had met with the ed board to talk about progress on the project, among other things. No mention was made of such a costly and significant error.
Monday morning, I emailed DOT officials to say we didn’t feel like they had been straight with us. Hammond called us to explain. “I profusely apologize,” she began by saying. Hammond said that by the time she met with us June 3, the mistake – engineers directed a contractor to build an offramp in the wrong place – was old news to her. The state discovered the error in the fall and came up with a solution in February.
But the blunder was still very much on the minds of some at DOT: Those charged with negotiating concurrence with the contractor to fix the state’s mistake. That agreement wasn’t reached until June 18; then the contractor began tearing up the offramp last Friday.
Whatever prevented DOT from sharing the information with us on June 3, it shouldn’t have been an issue – because DOT should have told the public about the problem before then and long before its hand was forced. An agency that voluntarily admits its mistakes risks inviting criticism, but preserves a good deal of its credibility.