Inslee on 520 Bridge mistakes: 'This is not going to happen again'

SEATTLE -- Governor Jay Inslee said the State Department of Transportation is guilty of significant failures on the new 520 Bridge, and he said he won't stop investigating until he finds out how those costly mistakes could be made.

The multi-million mistakes were uncovered in a KOMO 4 Problem Solvers investigation into construction flaws with the concrete pontoon being used on the bridge.

"I'm inheriting tons of concrete and rebar here," Inslee said of the massive bridge project.

Along with the concrete and rebar, Inslee also inherited a project riddled with problems. Cracks and leaks were discovered in the first set of massive concrete pontoons, and an unusual contract set-up puts all of the financial risks on state taxpayers.

Last month, outgoing Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond unveiled the results of an expert review panel, indicating flaws in the state-design of the pontoons and a lack of management oversight are the primary reasons for the cracks and leaks. The review also said state taxpayers are ultimately responsible for repairs and delays.

Those mistakes have already cost taxpayers well above $100 million.

Inslee's new transportation secretary, Lynn Peterson, takes office Wednesday. He promised that together they will follow through with proposed redesign changes and discipline any state employee found responsible for the mistakes.

"I am going to be insistent, this is not going to happen again," he said.

Problem Solver sources say WSDOT and contractor Kiewit were "taking lots of shortcuts" because of "pressure for the schedule."

The expert panel agreed with that assessment, reporting last week that schedule pressure and short cuts were major factors.

"This was not a whitewash," Inslee said. "They did identify some significant failures by the Department of Transportation."

Inslee is confident in the current redesign of the pontoons.

"I do believe that they have called for some significant changes that are heading in the right direction," he said.

Sources now say the repairs and redesigns recommended by the panel won't fix the problems. They believe the pontoons already on lake Washington -- as well as those under construction in Aberdeen -- will still be structurally inadequate and won't last the 75 years WSDOT guarantees.

Inslee promises he's not done investigating.

"But that's not the last page of the book," he said. "We will be reviewing these decisions and you and I will be talking about it in the upcoming weeks and months."

It will be up to Peterson to follow through on Inslee's promises.


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