This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
The state Department of Transportation erred twice in building – and now rebuilding – an offramp on state Route 16.
The biggest mistake: Engineering problems that led a contractor to build an offramp in the wrong place. The runner-up: Not being more forthcoming with the taxpaying and traveling public about the error.
Transportation officials acknowledged Monday what is now obvious: That crews are in the midst of tearing apart and lowering the recently completed eastbound offramp to Sprague Avenue.
A contractor built the ramp in the wrong place – because the state told it to. State engineers forgot to account for a third lane of the eastbound mainline, largely because the department had split design work between two teams – one for the eastbound lanes and one for the westbound lanes.
To avoid a second closure of Sprague Avenue, the eastbound offramp was included in the contract for the westbound work now underway. But no one from the eastbound design team apparently told the westbound engineers to account for an additional lane, and the westbound team apparently didn’t ask.
Paula Hammond, the state secretary of transportation, said Monday a review is under way to determine exactly what went wrong.
It appears that the blunder can be at least partly attributed to confusion resulting from a scramble for federal stimulus dollars. In its rush to qualify for the money, the state reassigned employees who should have been checking for inconsistencies in the Highway 16 plans to working on the Interstate 5 HOV lanes in north Pierce County.
Mistakes happen, although rarely are they this big (a fix will cost taxpayers $890,000) or this glaring.