The Washington State Dept. of Transportation describes the highway off-ramp improperly built on a new interchange in east Tacoma as “unfortunate and embarrassing.” It’s also expensive. A change order for nearly $900,000 —out of the project’s contingency fund at the cost of WSDOT—was worked out with project contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction. The Broomfield, Colo.-based contractor already has started removing retaining-wall panels to flatten the ramp, which was mistakenly built at the wrong grade.
The eastbound ramp of the $119.9-million Nalley Valley interchange—at which Interstate 5 meets state Route 16—was 90% complete before the problem surfaced. The contractor will tear out a portion of the ramp to change its slope along a 700-ft section. The overall project still will finish on time.
Kevin Dayton, WSDOT regional chief, says the structure was conceived as an off-ramp for a two-lane freeway, but during design a third lane was added. The wider freeway meant the off-ramp would connect to the overpass at the wrong elevation. “The bridge over state Route 16 is at the right point,” he says. “The ramp either needed to move outward laterally or have its profile changed.”
Says DOT spokeswoman Lisa Copeland, “The addition of a third lane to the eastbound project was not communicated or coordinated with the current westbound project.” Atkinson officials couldn’t be reached for comment, but Copeland says WSDOT plans to incorporate more checks and reviews during all points of design and construction.