Times: Burke-Gilman project way over budget

Paving the trail earlier this year. Image from King County Parks

Not only is the large reconstruction of the Burke-Gilman Trail north of Seattle behind schedule, but costs have almost doubled, the Seattle Times reports.

Originally budgeted at $2.7 million, the King County Council approved an additional $2.2 million to complete the project. Construction hit some snags regarding soil condition, utility work and trees, and much of the work had to be redesigned.

This section of trail has been closed since June, and the nasty detour has lead many people to simply stop riding. Though trail improvements are generally popular among people who bike, closing the trail during the most popular months of the year and failing to provide a reasonable detour has clouded the project’s popularity. Many of the hundreds of people who use the stretch as a vital transportation corridor have been left finding other ways to get around, often at an increased financial cost.

The project was originally expected to open by now, but now most of the trail is not expected to be open until late January or early February. If the project does not go further over budget, it will come in at about $2.5 million per mile.

From the Times:

The project is more than a month behind schedule because of challenges in dealing with trees, utilities and bad soil, said Doug Williams, spokesman with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Added Kevin Brown, head of the parks department: “As we got into the project, several issues came up. The utilities are different than we anticipated, the soil is softer and not as stable, and it’s so heavily vegetated we had to remove a lot more for the trail width.”

The problems have nearly doubled the cost: It was to be $2.7 million, but $2.2 million more is needed to complete the project. That means the project is costing about $2.5 million a mile. The additional money was approved by the Metropolitan King County Council on Monday.

Williams said there’s no other portion of King County’s regional trail system that is as difficult to work with as this particular stretch because of tight corridors, steep slopes and roots coming through the pavement. He also said crews had to deal with dangerous road crossings.

Surveys show more than 1,300 trips a day are made on this section of the Burke-Gilman on weekdays, and on sunny weekend days the number of trips can jump to more than 2,200.

King County crafted a detour route, but Williams said it was hilly and added an extra 2.3 miles to the trip, so many bikers crafted their own detours.

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15 Responses to Times: Burke-Gilman project way over budget

  1. Gary says:

    I still don’t understand why they are paying overtime for this. Yes it’s late, but paying overtime makes it even more expensive.

  2. JAT says:

    My favorite part is “He also said crews had to deal with dangerous road crossings.”

    I don’t quite know what it means here, but the image of the body that administers the B-G Trail coming to an awareness that the road crossings are dangerous only upon being told by terrorized work crews amuses me.

    • Mark says:

      What a shocker!! Like the City has ever been under let alone on budget. More proof this should have been bid through private sector ;) Also didn’t help they didn’t seem to even start anything for months. Am sure someone will get a promo or raise. Gotta love risking my life on LC Way!

  3. Simon says:

    King County’s incompetence at contracting and using your money never ceases too astound. These projects cost so much because of terrible management during design and a sudden realized need to advertise a project immediately. Poor contact documents allow the contractor to demand exorbitant prices for change orders. County claims they are funding this with cost savings from the East Lake Sammamish Trail, but on that project they really just eliminated the expensive portion, the SR 520 crossing.

  4. Todd says:

    Oh my! What a surprise. I predicted this and the amount the were charging for 2 miles sucked. Go for it you guys. Keep buying into the system. It’ll screw you (the tax payer). But what do you care? As long as you get yours. Sorry but the whole thing sux. You wanna play the system and feel good about it? Go for it you factious biking fascists.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Todd, I have no idea who you are even talking to.

      Almost every post on this blog related to this trail project has been about how best to find a safe and reasonable route around the construction. And the comments on stories about this project have been pretty critical of the process, lack of a reasonable detour, cost, etc.

      Is it suddenly the fault of every person who rides a bike if a biking and walking trail project goes over budget? Is it the fault of a person who drives if a bridge project goes over budget? Or is it the fault of people who poop if a sewage project goes over budget?

      Unintelligible use of the term “fascists” aside, I think you will have trouble finding many people out there who would choose to spend nearly $5 million on repaving one short section of trail through Lake Forest Park when there are so many other needed trail and park projects in the region.

      But this was a project in the works for about a decade, slowly working its way through a spider web of governments and government agencies. It is wise to keep up a maintenance schedule of government infrastructure, and this section was well beyond the point of replacement, being the oldest sections of the trail (served for about 35 years, which is not bad for a highly-used and desirable public asset). The trail edges were falling off, making it skinnier and skinnier while usage has no signs of declining.

      Maintenance of assets isn’t sexy, but it’s important.

      So I can see the desire to fix it and redo some dangerous crossings, but the rising cost is pretty hard to swallow. I hope it doesn’t eat too far into the budgets of other needed trails or parks in the county.

      • Bruce Nourish says:

        For future reference, I’d say that was the kind of comment to delete out of hand, rather than engage with intelligently.

    • Brian says:

      Improper use of the word factious, BTW.

  5. Doug Bostrom says:

    For purposes of comparison, typical per-mile costs of various styles of roadbuilding, as presented courtesy of the State of Florida:

    ftp://ftp.dot.state.fl.us/LTS/CO/Estimates/CPM/summary.pdf

    BFD. The Times’ ideology is such that they’re always delighted to highlight money issues affecting taxpayers. In absolute terms, the amount in question is picayune; large organizations have error bars in their budgets, regardless of whether they’re public or private, and these error bars of course incorporate more dollars because the budgets in question are larger. Duh.

  6. Ballard Biker says:

    It’s great that this section is being rebuilt, and I feel for those that have been displaced. It will be done before you know it, and it will be worth it.
    But I don’t get it: Added Kevin Brown, head of the parks department: “As we got into the project, several issues came up. The utilities are different than we anticipated, the soil is softer and not as stable, and it’s so heavily vegetated we had to remove a lot more for the trail width.”
    Is he just pointing out how imcompetent the process is? The utilities didn’t move or change, the soil didn’t change, the vegetation would have been the most obvious to anticipate. Did they not contact the utility companies? Did they not do soil tests? Did they not even go to the site and see the vegetation?

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