- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Poor management of the Mixing Bowl highway construction project in Northern Virginia will cause the overall price tag to approach $1 billion and the target completion date to extend well past 2007, a federal report to be released today said.
The two-year review by the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general also said continued price overruns during the project's first seven years caused the state to delay or cancel 70 percent of other highway projects in Northern Virginia.
The report called for a federal review of the Springfield interchange reconstruction and urged the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration to enact management controls that could help bring down the project's costs.
The latest projections show costs rising beyond the $676.5 million estimate, and maybe as high as $1 billion, according to the review.
U.S. Rep. James P. Moran called the report "damning" and said it was unfortunate it wasn't released before last month's referendum vote on increasing the sales tax in the region to pay for more transportation projects, which voters rejected.
"This is a case study in poor management, poor fiscal management and probably poor upfront estimating," Mr. Moran said.
But VDOT Commissioner Philip A. Shucet said the agency is much better run now than when planning for the project began in 1994. He said VDOT is developing a finance plan to keep spending on the project in check.
Mr. Shucet expects the finance plan to be done within 30 days.
"The Springfield interchange will be delivered in the year 2007, and it will certainly be less than $700 million. It is not going to be a billion-dollar project," he said. "I'm just not going to allow it."
The report was the first extensive audit of one of Virginia's most expensive highway projects.
Initially projected at a cost of $220 million, construction costs increased by 180 percent from mid-1994 through 2000.
The latest increase came in March, when VDOT officials announced the cost had jumped by almost $100 million to the $676.5 million estimate.
The inspector general's reports said about a third of the money spent nearly $237 million could be tied to poor management and underestimated project costs.
The original estimate "severely understated project costs because it excluded known, planned and easily predictable costs that are standard cost elements in major highway construction projects," the report said.
The report recommended the Federal Highway Administration establish minimum standards for states to follow when making cost estimates on similar major highway construction projects in the future.
Three phases of the Mixing Bowl project have been completed.
In all, the new interchange will include 50 new bridges, with 24 lanes on I-95 at its widest point, just south of the Capital Beltway.
The Springfield interchange connects Interstates 95, 395 and 495, with daily traffic of 430,000 vehicles.
It has been the most frequent spot on the Capital Beltway for accidents, according to a recent study.


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