February 04, 2007
Your tax dollars at work

P-I: "Faulty design delays bus stops' openings"

The opening of new Sound Transit bus stops on Interstate 405 in Kirkland will be delayed several months while crews repair damage that resulted from what proved to be faulty design.
The extra work is expected to add between $2 million and $3 million to the cost.
The Times has more: "Public will foot bill for flawed I-405 work"

Another example of government creating wealth more efficiently!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at February 04, 2007 11:44 AM | Email This
1. Boy, I can't wait for single-payer health care!

Posted by: ScottM on February 4, 2007 11:33 AM
2. Public to foot the bill? Why? Did the engineers have no malpractice insurance?

Posted by: km on February 4, 2007 11:57 AM
3. Couldn't they directly link the defective bus stops with the defective bus tunnel?

Posted by: Walters on February 4, 2007 12:37 PM
4. I would love to see him explain his logic in cutting hundreds of his part-time transit operators and families from their county health care insurance. By deliberately reducing the amount of time they work therefore, eliminating their eligibility for basic health insurance for their families. I guess this is a story you won't see in the PI or the Seattle Times.

Posted by: Freeborn on February 4, 2007 12:46 PM
5. There's a parallel between credit card bingers who can't control their buying and payments and many voters in this sate, especially King County, who can't resist every tax and spend measure on the ballots. "It's for the kids" and "Only a latte a day" have the same appeal as " Own it today for only $10 a month."

The credit card use-impaired eventually get themselves into deep kimchee with uncontrolled buying and the inability to keep up with payments. Tax loving voters do the same. Vote for every road tax, school tax, transportation tax, tunnel tax, park tax, street repair & tree trimming tax, and stadium tax then watch as the actual prices exceed the quoted costs. Agencies such as WA DOT and Sound Transit will make sure they spend tax revenues faster than they properly oversee projects.

Credit card bingers have a way out with bankruptcy. Taxpaying citizens don't. Banks don't loose money on uncollected credit card debts. They make up for it with the fees and interest they charge responsible credit-worthy consumers. Washington will do the same with this construction debacle.

Oh, and as far as those DOT engineers who rubber-stamped this project - listen for "Over-worked and under-funded."

Posted by: Tyler Durden on February 4, 2007 01:09 PM
6. What gets me is the DOT Engineers screw up and we have to foot the bill for their mistakes. I do not know about the rest of you, but from what I have seen in the business world if you screw up you have to fix the problem out of what would have been your own profit.

Posted by: TrueSoldier on February 4, 2007 01:30 PM
7. tyler- your too rough on the credit card bunch- they know they are setting fire to money. The real stupidity is in the false notion that tax hikes are an "investment" in the community.

Posted by: Andy on February 4, 2007 02:07 PM
8. Who was the person that gave the go ahead to build the ramps using an unproven design? That is who should be canned. I will bet that, he or she will make a ton of overtime fixing the problem. Remember, when they say between $2 million and $3 million, they mean $4 million to $5 million

Posted by: Moondoggie on February 4, 2007 07:12 PM
9. Concrete and rebar are well established sciences. Mistakes that we have to pay for are also "well established political sciences". Nuff said!

Posted by: Fed Up on February 4, 2007 07:20 PM
10. As usual, I gotta laugh at the irony here. You folks got your undies in a bunch over some fairly trivial ($3 to $4 million) mistakes in local govt, when the national scene is dominated by a poorly planned and even more poorly executed war, started under false pretense, and costing $500 billion ++++++. Never mind the 100,000 plus bodies in the ground.

Way to keep your eye on the ball shark. 15 minutes in Iraq pays for the whole project in Kirkland. Great to know we've got your razor sharp eye and intellect on the case.

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 4, 2007 08:01 PM
11. WSDOT engineers are not liable for design errors, budget overruns, or schedule slippages. They live a fairy tale existence.

Long live the old I-90 bridge.

Posted by: Organization Man on February 4, 2007 08:22 PM
12. I think this monstrosity is called a "Texas T Intersection." In any case, there are a number of them going up all over the place. What are the odds that the same "design flaw" appears in several other projects -- some of them already open to traffic? Makes me feel really safe. Wonder how many other "design flaws" DOT is hiding?

Posted by: Bill M on February 4, 2007 09:21 PM
13. Speaking of credit card binges . . .

How's that little fracas over in Iraq going? Is it up to $2T yet? Or simply a measly $1T?

And how's that national debt going? Is the increase up to 50% since Smirky took the reins? Or "just" 49%+?

Posted by: Jim on February 5, 2007 02:20 AM
14. Unkl - you seem to rationalize every expenditure based on the fact that it cost less than killing terrorists in Iraq. With that logic we could spend the entire GDP this week and you would come back to your standard refrain, no big deal look at Iraq.

And then to top it off, comparing the value (not a particularly strong point in D politics) between building yet another basically identical freeway off ramp with fighting a war for - admittedly debatable - national defense.

Posted by: Right said Fred on February 5, 2007 06:41 AM
15. Fred:

I'm not rationalizing anything. I think there should be full accountability for the engineering error in Kirkland and someone's surety bond should be paying for it.

But it's hard to take you seriously when you sit and gnash your teeth about the incompetence of local DOT officials in the midst of a true national tragedy. The Bush administration has and continues to pursue a reckless foriegn policy in the middle east that will not only break the bank, but our heart as a nation as well. And you folks won't say a word about it.

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 5, 2007 06:55 AM
16. The need for the war in Iraq is a matter of opinion, a badly engineered off-ramp isn't.

There has also been plenty of discussion about how things have not gone well. But saying we should be defeatists (the D policy) compared to we need to win, move on and do it (the R policy) is a completely different matter.

I assume that you also advocate getting rid of welfare too? Since FDR the poverty rate is about the same despite the billions - dwarfing the Iraq expenditures - that tax payers have paid on this entitlement. If you want to get rid of failed policies, start there - it is so much bigger.

Posted by: Right said Fred on February 5, 2007 07:14 AM
17. The darn shame is a PE that stamped and signed the drawings and calculations is Not losing their license and (s)he is still checking their pension totals this morning. It is outrageous that this simple design is botched and no one is being terminated. The incompetent engineer got lucky they botched it so bad it failed quickly rather than fatiguing and falling on traffic with a bus load of the mass transit faithful falling with it. Sorta like the engineers in Bellevue that designed the topping tower crane base and have gotten away scott free with their PE license intact.

BTW that PE's stamp is on the drawings that are a matter of public record. Doug MacDonald what say you?

Posted by: Col. Hogan on February 5, 2007 09:19 AM
18. Fred:

I will concede the need for this war in Iraq was a matter of opinion even though the affirmative has lost all credibility outside of a few diehards like you. And I'm sure you will concede the need for an HOV ramp in Kirkland is equally arguable.

My point is that despite the questions of need for each, both have been badly engineered. One just happens to be several orders of magnitude larger, more expensive, and threatening to our national security than the other.

You cry out for accountability in the lesser, but remain silent on the one that is truly going to change the lives of our children.

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 5, 2007 09:31 AM
19. Oh, and Fred, welfare was never intended to eliminate poverty, it was an attempt to keep the children of impoverished parents from starving to death. A noble goal I'm sure you would agree.

I sincerely doubt we've spent anywhere near two trillion dollars on it so far. Perhaps you can provide the figures.

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 5, 2007 09:56 AM
20. I want accountability for BOTH. But calling for cut-and-run is in no conceivable way asking for accountability. When we are finished with the job there should be a significant level of accountability. But in the mean time we do not need to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

And actually all polls show a majority wants to win in Iraq, but with the constant negative spewing from the MSM and the Ds, the majority do not feel that what we are doing now will lead to victory, which are two completely different things.

As far a the HOV ramps, I am 100% opposed to all of them - I90, I405 Bellevue and Kirkland, I5 at 320th, and probably many more. When the constituents ask for more capacity I am not sure why our Social Engineers In Charge interpret that as taking all the gas tax money and put in capacity for busses, so many of which seem to have a destination of TRM, and two or three HOV cars. The one place that I can think of, off hand, is that highway 18 has capacity added for the general public where they do not intend - yet - to charge people seperately for using it, like the narrows bridge.

Posted by: Right said Fred on February 5, 2007 10:00 AM
21. Unkl Putz:

Check your numbers ..... 100,000?

Says who?

Posted by: Jack Burton on February 5, 2007 10:19 AM
22. Fred:

If we could get beyond the playbook euphemisms like "cut and run" and the name calling like " Social Engineers In Charge", we might be able to have a meaningful debate about the issues here.

But to say "all polls show a majority wants to win in Iraq" contributes nothing to the discussion. Of course they/we want to win in Iraq. But that has little to do with how it is done or whether it even can be done. I'm confident all polls would show a majority wants a new car in the garage at no cost as well, but that hardly it qualifies as good public policy.

So if you are so opposed to social engineering, how can you possibly support the effort in Iraq? Isn't that social engineering on a massive scale?

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 5, 2007 10:23 AM
23. Witz, comment on-topic or troll elsewhere.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on February 5, 2007 10:25 AM
24. hummm... I thought the topic was "Your tax dollars at work" and my comments were appropriate. Perhaps you can enlighten me on the true topic.

Posted by: Unkl Witz on February 5, 2007 10:39 AM
25. This mess is avoidable. The solution is to require design-build contracting whenever practicable. The current law limits this form of contracting to bridge construction.

Design-build projects will significantly reduce the number of incompetent designers employed by the DOT. Liability for defective designs will be on the private parties furnishing the services rather than the uninsured DOT.

Design-build projects historically cost 30% to 50% less than traditional public works bidding. A change in the public contract law is necessary.

The opposition is public employee and construction unions and most democrat legislators. If the public is informed about this dirty secret of public works contracting, I believe they would demand changes that produce better work for less money from parties that are financially responsible for their errors and omissions.

Posted by: Paddy on February 5, 2007 11:03 AM
26. Paddy - I agree with everything but one point - "the uninsured DOT". Your and my wallet is the policy holder for the DOT.

Posted by: Right said Fred on February 5, 2007 12:51 PM
27. There are a couple of big red flags here:
"The Totem Lake project used a new construction technique involving structures supported at one end, or cantilevered, for bus pull-out spaces.
While the ramps leading to and from the freeway are built on fill material placed between the decorative retaining walls, the pull-outs are built on the extended, or cantilevered, concrete."

First, a public agency should not be using a "new construction technique", because it represents a gamble. If it goes wrong, as it did here, the taxpayers are stuck paying for the losing bet.

Second, any sort of application that combines a cantilever and concrete should be approached with extreme caution. Concrete performs poorly in tension, and the cantilever form magnifies the problem.

Even if one of the PEs at WSDOT was willing to approve the design, his superiors should have stopped it, due to the risk.

Someone should be held accountable for this; it goes well beyond an honest mistake.

But that apparently won't happen:
' Brown added that the design represented "a group effort," in which the design was checked and rechecked. Although the design didn't work in reality, no one is expected to be disciplined or fired because of the flaw, he said.
"Everyone feels terrible about this," said Brown. "It's not something you can hang on an individual." '

I wonder, if the gamble had been successful, and if it had won some award for the innovative design, would all of the involved parties at WSDOT have refused to accept credit?

Posted by: ewaggin on February 5, 2007 01:07 PM
28. This is rich. Last year, Shark was trying to tell us buses were the way to go, and light rail should be scrapped. We should have guessed this was just another smokescreen argument employed by the increasingly small and desperate anti-transit/pro-freeway minority (see: Luke Esser and Toby Nixon).

Well, this suburban HOV access ramp is the kind of bus and carpool project which makes buses more appealing and competitive with light rail's speed and reliability.

Instead of looking at this issue for what it is, we get a petty post about $2-$3 million in "wasted" money. Well, unlike the Sound Politics-approved fishing expedition in Iraq, at least the money here is spent on private local contractors building infrastructure to benefit our own citizens.

In contrast, we now see reports of the Sound Politics-approved Coalition Provisional Authority shipping 363 tons worth of cash - $12 billion - into Iraq, with next to zero oversight. (Think you'll ever see Sharkansky utter a single peep - good luck!!). I wonder what the return on the public's "investment" in Iraq is gonna be? Hmmmmmm......

In the end, $8.8 billion was totally unaccounted for. Some of it probably ended up in insurgents' hands. Some probably went to Bush-buddy Chalabi's pals in Iran. Yet the Sound Politics crew is grousing about a $3 million defect where no malfeasance was involved?

Back in my day, you could look to the Republicans and Conservatives when you wanted your wallet to be protected. Now, thanks to the doctrinaire politics of religion and paranoia, it's clear right wingers are much more likely to flush our hard-earned dollars down the toilet - more so than any commie lib could ever do.

You guys are a joke. This post is proof that the right wing of the Republican Party has completely lost its way. Large projects are always going to run into problems. But at least the money stays right here, where it belongs.

Next time WSDOT or Sound Transit run into engineering problems, I think they should stamp the word "Baghdad" on the project. Then you clowns will keep your mouths shut.

Posted by: Benjamin on February 7, 2007 09:05 PM
29. *Unkl - you seem to rationalize every expenditure based on the fact that it cost less than killing terrorists in Iraq.*

Right Said Fred: by our military's own tabulations, only 2% of captives we are holding in Iraq are foreign fighters, ie "terrorists." The rest are engaged in sectarian violence.

Your perspective is pure fantasy, and the rest of the country now realizes it. You guys need to find a new bogeyman to fight. How's about the gay commie athiest terrorists?

Posted by: Benjamin on February 7, 2007 09:12 PM
30. *First, a public agency should not be using a "new construction technique", because it represents a gamble. If it goes wrong, as it did here, the taxpayers are stuck paying for the losing bet.*

Uhhhh, ewaggin, that technique was required because of the physical constraints of the construction site. Is that too tough for you to understand?

How is it that so much of conservative opinion is always based on pure mythology?

Posted by: Benjamin on February 7, 2007 09:15 PM
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