- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

Construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge and its interchanges and nearby roads now is estimated to cost more than $2.4 billion — $357 million more than budgeted — and some of the work could take until 2011 to complete.
The new estimate is part of a financing agreement among Maryland, Virginia, the District and the federal government on the construction project's contracts and the bridge's ownership and maintenance.
The agreement was submitted Tuesday to the Federal Highway Works Administration; U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta is expected to approve the agreement by mid-July, Virginia Transportation Secretary Shirley J. Ybarra said yesterday.
The financing agreement points out a "$357.3 million shortfall" in available funds, a result of "future phasing" of other construction, Maryland and Virginia officials said yesterday. Those projects include:
* $230 million for construction on the Telegraph Road interchange in Virginia.
* $47 million for the southern section of Route 1 in Fairfax County and HOV ramps.
* $37 million for the Interstate-295 interchange in Maryland.
* $43 million for the Maryland Route 210 interchange.
Virginia and Maryland officials intend to meet the shortfall by using their future allocations of federal highway funds.
The federal government has committed $1.585 billion for building the 12-lane span, which is scheduled to be completed by 2006. Each state has pledged $200 million, and the District $15 million.
Earlier this month, Virginia increased its cost estimates for work on interchanges off Interstates 95 and 495 in Alexandria by almost $160 million to $927 million. Maryland recently increased its estimates by $150 million to $1.35 billion for construction of the bridge and interchanges.
Those increases were based on Virginia and Maryland doubling their contingency funds to 10 percent of construction costs.
Miss Ybarra said road projects that are part of the "future phasing" will be built mostly between 2006 and 2011. "When we push those project elements out into the later years, we have to take inflationary costs into account," she said.
Completion of interchanges and other road construction by 2011 would be timely: The Baltimore-Washington region is competing to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Valerie Burnette-Edgar, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said Maryland's cost estimates "are right on target" and that the state still expects to have its "phasing" projects completed no later than 2007.
Maryland had been reluctant to increase its contingency fund, as Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III had endorsed. But Maryland's transportation secretary said his state went along for the sake of getting the project started.
"We do not anticipate needing the additional contingency funding. However, if increasing the contingencies will help get federal approval to move the rest of the construction forward, then we will do it," Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said in a statement.
Virginia and Maryland have agreed to split the bridge's maintenance costs 50-50, with Maryland taking ownership of the bridge. Work on the first span of the bridge is expected to begin this fall, and Maryland will bid out contracts for the $450 million worth of work in August.

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