- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

RICHMOND Estimated construction costs for the Springfield interchange have doubled to $700 million, Virginia Department of Transportation officials said yesterday.
The latest estimate, announced by interim VDOT Commissioner Ray D. Pethtel, is the second increase in six months.
"It is time to be realistic about the cost of this entire project, from beginning to end, so the public knows the full costs involved," Mr. Pethtel said.
When finished in 2007, the project will join Interstates 95, 395 and 495.
Originally estimated in 1994 to cost about $350 million, the Springfield Interchange project also known as the Mixing Bowl has had several cost increases.
In 2000, Secretary of Transportation Shirley J. Ybarra told an outraged General Assembly that the cost estimate was going up to $509 million.
The new, bigger price tag was made public as part of VDOT's review of its six-year road-building plan.
Some lawmakers and local government officials said privately they think the project costs could eventually hit $1 billion because there is a "Phase 8" that involves widening the Capital Beltway,which could increase the final price tag.
The somewhat muted reaction to the latest cost increase indicates lawmakers are resigned to higher costs.
"We're going to see a repeat of this," Sen. Warren E. Barry, Fairfax Republican, said of VDOT giving revised estimates of project costs.
Mr. Barry commended the Warner administration for being honest about the latest increase. During a news conference, Gov. Mark R. Warner acknowledged that more bad news could be on its way.
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, said two years ago he expected the price of the construction project to reach $750 million. Yesterday, he said, he felt somewhat vindicated.
Mr. Pethtel said there are three primary reasons for the cost increase: changes to contracts because utilities in the area have had to be moved or reconstructed; possible litigation for contract claims; and delays in rebuilding the Beltway "over one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors" in the country.
About 60 trains a day use the tracks by the Mixing Bowl, which limits the amount of work done each day, while still having to pay full wages to construction crews.
Mr. Pethtel said the Commonwealth Transportation Board will soon have to decide which projects in Northern Virginia may have to be cut to meet the increased cost of the Mixing Bowl.
Talk of cuts to smaller projects is worrisome to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson.
"As the costs of these major projects skyrocket by tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, countless smaller but critical projects that would improved outdate intersections and unsafe road conditions could lose their shot at funding," Mr. Anderson said.


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