Transportation accountability proposals receive public hearings

By Bobbi Cussins, Public Information Officer

Measures sponsored by Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, that would require the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to account for and respond to costly transportation design and building errors were the subject of public hearings in the House Transportation Committee Monday.

House Bill 1986 would require WSDOT to report engineering errors costing more than $500,000 and explain what went wrong to the Legislature. It would also require the agency to put in place a plan to correct the errors and ensure similar mistakes do not happen on future projects.

House Bill 1987 would require transportation projects over $5 million to be built using a Design-Build process so that contractors hired to do the design and building of transportation projects assume the liability for errors in their work. This process would ensure state taxpayers are not responsible for the cost of project design mistakes.

“Before the Legislature even begins to discuss new and higher transportation taxes, there needs to be serious reforms in the system to address waste,” said O’Ban, who serves on the House Transportation Committee. “The pontoons for the 520 Bridge project and the off-ramp mistake on Highway 16 are just two examples of what I am attempting to address with my bills. These two projects have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in additional money due to design flaws that could have gone to build needed transportation projects, including finishing Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma.”

O’Ban explained that the Legislature holds the purse strings on transportation funding and should have all the information before allocating taxpayer money to troubled procedural and design systems at WSDOT.

“Right now, it appears that we do not have a mechanism in place for checks and balances in the transportation department,” O’Ban said. “My bills try to correct this oversight and add taxpayer protections. The goal is to have our road dollars spent responsibly and effectively to get people to work and improve freight mobility.”