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Engineering mistake costs $890,000 on State Route 16 project in Tacoma

Post by Cole Cosgrove on June 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm with 3 Comments »
June 26, 2010 1:11 pm

An off-ramp built in the wrong place – an engineering mistake attributed to human error –on the State Route 16 construction project in Tacoma will cost the state $890,000 to correct.

“This is a dark day,” Kevin Dayton, administrator for the state Department of Transportation’s Olympic Region, said by phone Saturday.

“The first question is, ‘Gosh, how could you make such a blunder,'” Dayton said.

The problem was with the eastbound Highway 16 off-ramp to Sprague Avenue, which was in the wrong spot to line up with future work, Dayton said. The earthen off-ramp connects Highway 16 with the elevated bridge that leads to Sprague Avenue in Nalley Valley. As the project was refined from two eastbound lanes to three eastbound lanes to accommodate traffic, engineers needed to move the placement of the off-ramp to make room. But that wasn’t communicated between members of the eastbound design team and the westbound design team. Bottom line, the engineering plan went out with the off-ramp in the wrong spot.

“The contractor did exactly what was in the plan,” Dayton said.

Dayton attributed the mistake to human error within the DOT engineering group, but said the blame rests with him.

“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility,” Dayton said. “The buck stops with me. ”

The mistake was caught in October when the off-ramp was 90 percent completed, Dayton said. Engineers spent the winter redesigning. Last week, the pavement was torn up. Money in a contingency fund will cover the $890,000 to remove pavement, lower the grade up to 12 feet and rebuild the off-ramp, he said.

Correcting the error won’t extend the completion date of the project, Dayton said. Work on westbound State Route 16 is expected to finish in midsummer 2011. After that, work will begin on the eastbound lanes of State Route 16.

Dayton said no disciplinary action will be taken, but he also said he’s asked for several checks and balances to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Mistakes do get made in engineering and construction,” Dayton said. “We generally catch it in the field. … The big embarrassment is it got built. That seldom, if ever, happens.”

He said it’s the first time in his 27-year career that an engineering mistake was built and had to be torn out.

“Luckily we caught it at 90 percent,” Dayton said. “I wish we caught it at 0 percent.”

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. FlyingTigress says:

    You would think that the use of CAD, and the concepts that Boeing used as far back as the design of the 777, WSDOT wouldn’t have made this error.

    Basically, there should have been a shared design available to both design teams.

    I’m assuming that the “As the project was refined from two eastbound lanes to three eastbound lanes to accommodate traffic, engineers needed to move the placement of the off-ramp to make room.” refers to the lanes on the mainline, and not on the ramp itself. A few extra words in the report would have cleared that up.

    Going to look at the location (I pass through the construction work twice a day) and see what the tie is between the widening on the mainline and the noted elevation reduction for the ramp.

  2. Perspicacious1 says:

    Wow! DOT to the rescue….anyone who has driven through this area since they put up the pilings knew this was wrong…..duh. And your cost? Yeah, right, just breaking up the concrete alone is going to cost more than you’ve stated!

    Any 2nd year civil engineer could have caught this mistake just by looking at the plans! What a joke.

    So, let’s put this in perspecitve – people I know who make less than $40,000 a year at the State have to take a furlough to save money because the budget is too tight and we have idiots like this guy making these kinds of mistakes? I want to know he’s fired!

  3. What money ,What contingency plan? Could some one explain how this mess is not going to involve the taxpayer?Perhaps a contingency plan is to highball the true cost so if they build the project for less than they said they needed .then they can claim they came in on time and under budget.But if they have to spend more money, it can be claimed that this money was in the budget for the project all along!This would be called covering ones tail!

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