Tacoma - An offramp built in the wrong place on the state Route 16 construction project in Tacoma - an engineering mistake attributed to human error - will cost the state $890,000 to correct.
“This is a dark day,” said Kevin Dayton, an administrator for the state Department of Transportation’s Olympic Region, which includes Tacoma.
“The first question is, ‘Gosh, how could you make such a blunder?’” Dayton said.
The problem lies with the eastbound Route 16 offramp to Sprague Avenue, Dayton said. The earthen offramp that connects Route 16 with the elevated bridge that leads to Sprague Avenue in Nalley Valley was in the wrong spot. As the project was refined from two lanes to three on the eastbound mainline, engineers needed to move the offramp to make room for the extra lane. But that wasn’t communicated between members of the eastbound design team and the westbound design team. As a result, the engineering plan went out with the offramp in the wrong place.
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“The contractor did exactly what was in the plan,” Dayton said.
Correcting the error won’t delay completion of the project, he said. Work on westbound Route 16 is expected to finish in midsummer 2011. After that, work will begin on the eastbound lanes.
The offramp mistake doesn’t affect the concrete pillars or bridge work that already has been completed.
Dayton attributed the mistake to human error within the DOT engineering group but said the blame rests with him.
“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility,” Dayton said. “The buck stops with me.”
The mistake was caught in October when the offramp was 90 percent completed, he said. Engineers spent the winter redesigning. Last week, the pavement was torn up. Money in a contingency fund will cover the $890,000 cost to remove pavement, lower the grade as much as 12 feet and rebuild the offramp, he said.
Dayton said no disciplinary action will be taken, adding that he has asked for several checks and balances to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Mistakes do get made in engineering and construction,” he said. “We generally catch it in the field. … The big embarrassment is it got built. That seldom, if ever, happens.”
He said it’s the first time in his 27-year career that an engineering mistake was built and had to be torn out.
“Luckily, we caught it at 90 percent,” Dayton said. “I wish we caught it at 0 percent.”
Cole Cosgrove: 253-597-8267 firstname.lastname@example.org