[UPDATE: Monday] Willits Bypass Cost Over 50% More Than Caltrans Originally Claimed, Says ABC7 News
Documents show that the $300 million cost for the project that Caltrans reported was off by over 50%, according to the story. The road actually cost $460 million, says ABC7.
The discrepancy was caused by Caltrans only reporting the cost of the contract for the Bypass and not including the cost of the work done by their own employees. ABC7 quotes Caltrans public information officer Phil Frisbie as saying,
It’s been Caltrans policy since about 2008 when we really started officially saying we need to make sure we include all the support costs because that gives the public really a better idea.
A recent post on Caltrans blog about the Willits Bypass claims that the new roadway is successfully keeping traffic moving safely in the area in spite of the upswell of vehicles over the summer. The piece quotes CHP Lieutenant Randy England, Garberville Area commander as saying, “We have seen the impact of safer roadways and less congestion during busy weekends.”
Then the article adds, “In the past CHP would have added extra officers in the Willits area during these weekends, manually directing drivers to keep traffic moving during severe backups. Thus far, there has been no need for traffic control assistance.”
UPDATE Monday: Caltrans District Director Matt Brady’s statement about the cost difference was posted on District 1’s Facebook page. He said,
Although the Willits Bypass is one of the most important interregional projects for the north coast, eliminating delays on U.S. Highway 101 and easing congestion for residents, the project did have its challenges.
Bypass construction costs, including the associated right-of-way, mitigation, and relinquishment projects, did rise to $300 million as protests, permitting issues and bird-nesting season delayed the project. This was previously shared at public California Transportation Commission meetings in 2014 and through press coverage. Support costs including staff and consultants added another $159 million, bringing the total cost to $459 million.
Those support costs include assessing the environmental impacts of over 30 potential routes, the development of the most extensive and detailed mitigation plan in Caltrans’ history, and then rewriting large sections of that mitigation plan to resolve issues with evolving requirements from permitting agencies.
Caltrans did mistakenly report $300 million as the total cost of the project as part of our opening day ceremony, however, as indicated previously, it only included construction costs, mitigation, etc., which was not the ‘total’ cost, and this was an oversight on our part.
Note: The writer’s husband, father and grandfather work or worked at Caltrans.