Local News

Overbudgeted I-85 Project Officially Opens

Posted February 12, 2008 1:55 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2008 6:52 p.m. EST

— The state Department of Transportation closed its book on an Interstate 85 widening and repaving project in Durham on Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting to officially open it.

The 8-mile project from Cole Mill Road to East Club Boulevard in Durham cost $210 million and added capacity to the highway through the city of Durham, where the old road had become congested. Its projected cost was $190 million.

It's the latest example of the DOT running over budget on a project.

"It's not a $20 million over-run on a small job," project engineer Aaron This is one of the most complex largest projects in the state. So, s relatively speaking, the overrun is not that great."

A recent state audit blamed $150 million of the cost of projects statewide on delays and the resulting effect of inflation.

Last year, the DOT spent an extra $22 million fixing parts of Interstate 40. Interstate 795 opened two years ago and could require several million dollars to repair.

Those are findings Gov. Mike Easley questions.

"Well, I don't think much of the audit," Easley said Tuesday. "They criticize the DOT for acting on hunches instead of engineering research and data, in some cases. Well, you get down to the root of that when you're building a road that goes across a river. You've got a hunch you're going to need a bridge."

It's not the first time the DOT has come under fire in recent months.

Gubernatorial candidates have also criticized the agency, with many stated a top priority for them will be to reform the DOT and its board.

"It is my job to address issues where we do have problems, determine the cause of the problem and implement change for correction," DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett said. "And that's what we do."

Tippett said the strongest critics are often the least informed and he believes that's the case here. He said his goal now is to implement change throughout DOT.