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Cost of New Bridge Over Lake Champlain Exceeds Budget

Fri December 30, 2011 - Northeast Edition
CEG



BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) The cost of a new bridge linking Vermont and New York over Lake Champlain is running 8 to 9 percent over budget.

Public records from New York, Vermont and federal agencies, which were requested by the Burlington Free Press, show that what started as a $69.6 million construction bid has become $75 million and is likely to reach $76 million.

The records show that much of the added cost is due to speeding up work on the bridge linking Addison, Vt., and Crown Point, N.Y., when delays were encountered. It also cited a report showing that cost overruns on transportation projects nationally aren’t unusual.

The new bridge, which opened to traffic on Nov. 7, carries about 3,000 cars a day. It replaces an 82-year-old bridge that was closed in October 2009 because it was structurally unsound.

The records show New York state approved 39 changes to the construction contract and the Federal Highway Administration approved all but two of the 24 changes it received. They also show that operation of the ferry that ran alongside the bridge site during construction cost $16 million, about $3 million less than expected.

The two states, which own the bridge jointly, were under pressure to replace the old bridge quickly, for the sake of the people who depend on it for their livelihoods, New York State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carol Breen told the newspaper.

Motorists who had grown accustomed to using the bridge for jobs, shopping and trips to the doctor faced long and unpredictable detours by the project.

Contractors encountered unforeseen problems and sought to modify original plans to make up for lost time. For example, New York officials agreed to pay contractor Flatiron Construction Corp. of Firestone, Colo., more for additional construction frames, barges, cranes and crew time so work could proceed on two piers simultaneously, rather than consecutively. The switch cost $1.5 million.