Here’s How DOT’s $425 Million Brooklyn Bridge Project Became a $657 Million Brooklyn Bridge Project – Streetsblog New York City
The city’s Department of Transportation spent 55% more than it thought on its latest Brooklyn Bridge repairs after the project’s sole bidder raised the price, then experienced ‘delays’ that added even more to the project, a new audit of the troubled and stalled repair shows for decades.
As verified by controller Brad Lander, who was quietly released On the eve of the July 4 holiday weekend, a four-year project originally considered in 2008 at $425 million ended up in a seven-year, $657 million contract with Skanska, the sole bidder.
That’s 55% more than the original cost estimate – and not something Lander’s bean counters were likely to miss.
“Certain weaknesses were found in DOT’s internal controls that resulted in inefficient use of funds and reflected a lack of transparency and accountability in some of the agency’s government procurement and contract departments,” the audit said.
Interestingly, Lander’s audit makes it clear that the DOT was not responsible for the cost overruns, just for not going back and revising their original estimates so they don’t seem to be that far off the bidder’s figures.
“The DOT has no [revised] Engineer’s estimate as required by the New York State DOT Code, which stipulates various specific procedures and analyzes for instances where only one bid is received and/or for contract estimates that exceed $5 million dollars,” the audit said. “The DOT generally attributed its decision not to have [its outside consultant] The URS revises the engineers’ estimate into an urgent need to award the contract, based on the conditions of the bridge at the time. »
Why were the conditions on the bridge so horrible? This is a beautiful story.
As detailed in the audit, the original project design was developed in 1978 by the state, but was never undertaken.
In 1992, 14 years later, the city took over the project, but did nothing for another 14 years.
Then, in 2006 – now 28 years after the initial state project was prepared – an inspection of the bridge revealed significant deterioration. Two years later, in 2008, a final design was approved by the federal government.
At the time, the DOT’s outside consultant said it was expected to cost $378 million, but by 2009 that figure had risen to $425 million due to an “expanded scope of work,” according to the DOT.
In June 2009, only one bidder – Skanska – responded with an offer of $508 million for the four-year contract. That’s already 19% more than the DOT estimate.
But the contract was signed, with a construction period from January 2010 to April 2014, which was extended until January 2017 due to “additional works and delays”. This extension brought the contract to $657.4 million, now 55% more than the original DOT estimate.
The DOT Consultant did conduct a review of Skanska’s offer, but this review was, according to the audit, “ambiguous, inaccurate or insufficient”. The audit found that 146 individual elements of Skanska’s bid were at least 26% higher than the estimate, with two outliers found to be more than 3,578 times higher than the original estimate. That “should have raised some red flags,” Lander’s audit said.
Those overpriced items totaled $174 million more — or almost exactly double — than the original $87 million estimate for those items. (The DOT stated in its response to the audit that it “continues to adhere to DOT State and Federal Highway Administration guidelines…regarding the review and acceptance of forensic analysis. offers”.)
A lesser part of the audit involved about $4 million in change orders for the “acceleration” of the project. Lander was dubious: “Based on a review of the documentation provided for these two change orders, the auditors were unable to distinguish between the cost attributable to the schedule acceleration and the amount attributable to the contract work. origin that should not have been approved as acceleration costs.”
Again, the DOT blamed the “urgency” of the job. It accepted all of Lander’s recommendations to strengthen its processes in this area.
“DOT generally agrees with … the conclusions, findings, and recommendations,” the agency said in a letter to Lander.
Beyond the analysis of cost overruns and delays, the audit is particularly interesting because it covers a period when repairs to the Brooklyn Bridge became a major part of local media coverage, including what the DOT told reporters publicly during the period. In late 2017, when the contract with Skanska was reportedly done, then-commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city couldn’t even consider creating a dedicated bike lane on the bridge to decongest the shared pedestrian and bike lane until until a “cable inspection” is performed. completed.
In January 2020, more than two years later, Trottenberg was asked to provide an update on this cable inspection and responded by saying, “I will admit that we have had our ups and downs. … We tried to get engineering services to do this cable inspection and I’ll just admit that it turned out to be a bit trickier to do this for a whole host of convoluted, just in-reasons New Yorkers. She never explained what those complications were or if they were related to the above contract or if they were related to the other $300 million (including some federal money) the city spent on the bridge between 1980 and 2017.
Read the audit for yourself here: