The Lewis Street overpass project is costing Pasco a pretty penny.
The city council approved last week four change orders totaling $1.2 million.
Those changes were the costliest to date for the project, which aims to replace the existing Lewis Street underpass — a dated span built under the BNSF railyard in 1937 — with a new overpass bridge.
In all, 21 change orders have been needed totaling nearly $1.94 million for unforeseen expenses — which exceed the 5% construction contingency budgeted by the city.
Workers broke ground on the $22.3 million project in June 2021. It’s supposed to open to traffic this September.
The current cost is estimated at $24.3 million, although that price tag is expected to grow even more.
City officials hope the project will spur economic interest and growth in the historic downtown area.
The new bridge will feature two lanes of traffic, bike lanes and sidewalks connecting downtown to east Pasco.
The construction contract was awarded to Vancouver, Wash.-based Cascade Bridge in March 2021.
At last week’s meeting, several city council members told the city staff to release more detailed information on the extra costs of the project so the public has a better understanding of the issue.
Mayor Blanche Barajas said the city needed to “minimize the added costs” of the Lewis Street project.
“We have in our horizon some very large projects that are coming,” said Mayor Pro Tem Craig Maloney. “This is not the last one — in fact, this is not even the biggest one we have in our near-term horizon.”
Council members urged city staff to find a better way of estimating the extra costs earlier on major projects.
The Lewis Street overpass is a large, complex project that has been in the works for 20 years, Worley told the Tri-City Herald.
“It is not uncommon to have change orders to the levels that we have on this project,” Worley said. “We try to have as few as possible, but sometimes the project just requires them in order to keep moving forward.”
Even during the construction phase, Worley said, large-scale bridge projects consistently have re-design, re-fabrication and unforeseen work that needs to be done.
As a future cost-saving measure, the city also plans to pay the contractor more to replace aging utilities found during excavation work on the Lewis Street project.
Of the $1.2 million in additional spending recently approved, more than $848,000 was spent to remove debris and the foundation from two blocks of previously demolished buildings between Second Avenue and Tacoma Street.
The debris was supposed to be buried and compacted in place, but was ultimately dug up and removed to make the ground more stable.
Other change orders were for rebar removal and modifications, structural debris removal, girder sweep modifications and design errors.