We’ve encountered setbacks, but strive to move forward

A message from Secretary Lynn Peterson

WSDOT has been in the news a lot lately regarding Bertha and the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program and more recently, the 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program.

Some of that coverage has been light hearted and other coverage has been more serious and raised concerns about WSDOT’s management of our mega projects.

Our projects are complex. No other city or state in the nation has projects like these going on. We are building the widest bored tunnel in the world and one of the largest floating bridges in the world. We need these projects to improve how our residents commute to work, home and play.

As each of us knows, projects encounter obstacles. How many of us have been involved in a project – big or small; at home or at work – and have encountered setbacks? Our projects are no different; they are just bigger and in the public eye. What defines our agency and how our public views us is how we manage through these challenges. That’s what counts. That’s what matters.

We’ve made mistakes. Our 520 bridge pontoon design error resulted in depleting the majority of contingency funds for that project. I spoke about that on Wednesday. We are doing what we can to manage that error. We’ve identified existing funding sources to cover these costs and keep the project on track. At this time, we don’t foresee the need for any changes in tax rates, fees or toll rates to cover the increased costs from contract change orders.

Bertha is stopped. We knew she would encounter challenges as she makes her way north. We planned for obstacles in our budget. WSDOT has been transparent about how hard this tunneling work is and it will continue to be. I’m impressed by the public’s knowledge and interest in not only the project, but in Bertha herself. People asked me “How’s she doing?” not long after tunneling stopped. The answer is: Bertha will be fine.

I understand people’s fear that these large, visible projects will become a statistic and that we will make national headlines for failure. Failure is not an option. We need these projects to be successful to better serve you – our residents. We will continue to manage them well, be accountable, celebrate our successes and be transparent about our challenges.

WSDOT strives for transparency with the media and the public and this makes our agency and valued employees vulnerable to negativity. Transparency is hard and it doesn’t always feel good, but it’s the right thing. We can’t just talk about our successes. We – WSDOT, our employees and the public – need to talk about everything transportation related. The more you are engaged, the more you understand the opportunities and challenges we face as an agency and as a transportation system both now and in the future.

WSDOT has a responsibility to be good stewards of transportation dollars. We’ve made – and continue to make – changes (pdf) to how we do business to ensure efficiencies are made, that we manage well through our challenges and we ensure your tax dollars are accounted for and well spent.