ROADS/BRIDGES: MassDOT delays piled extra $2.6 million on Gloucester Bridge rehab

Dec. 1, 2015

Office of the State Auditor found excessive delays could have been avoided, money saved

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) could have avoided excessive, multi-year delays and saved as much as $2.6 million on the rehabilitation of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge in Gloucester, according to an audit released today by the Office of the State Auditor.

“Our audit found that MassDOT overspent and experienced delays because it failed at the outset of the project to do an updated assessment of the bridge’s structural deficiencies,” said Auditor Suzanne M. Bump. “As a result, the project was marred by expensive change orders and cost overruns, and excessive delays.”

Because MassDOT would not pay for a new inspection, the contractor had to rely on outdated information from 1999 and 2005 to begin work. When subsequent work uncovered the need for significant structural repairs, Phase One of the project required eight change orders for extra work totaling $2.6 million. The amount of additional work and cost led MassDOT to competitively bid for Phase Two work, rather than continuing to use change orders. This process added time to the project, which is now slated to end in April 2016, but was originally scheduled for completion in June 2011.

“The collection, use and maintenance of reliable and up-to-date data is essential not just for MassDOT, but all of state government,” said Auditor Bump. “Without it, agencies cannot craft effective, long-term plans that take into account their comprehensive needs.”

Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante requested this audit in an effort to ensure public tax dollars were spent in the best interest of their districts. Representative Ferrante and Senator Tarr also raised concerns about the negative economic impact the lengthy construction process had in the region as well as the worsening of quality of life of residents in the area.

“Keeping the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge safe and accessible is critically important, and there have been too many haunting questions about the time and money it’s taking to get it repaired properly,” said Senator Bruce Tarr. “Now, thanks to the work of the Auditor’s Office, we have some important answers and a meaningful reform that prevent lost time and money in the future. That reform has already gone into effect, creating a positive change.”

“The mismanagement of taxpayer’s dollars and the detrimental effects on residents, travelers, and businesses found in this Auditor’s report are unacceptable. I will continue to work with Senator Tarr, my legislative colleagues, and the Governor, to make sure that these oversights are remedied immediately. I am encouraged that MassDOT has already begun to reform its practices and protocols. I am also pleased that Auditor Suzanne Bump and her staff did a thorough job in investigating the lapses in MassDOT’s bid process and planning” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

In the audit report, Auditor Bump called on MassDOT to allow its contracted design engineers to perform inspections of bridges that need repair in order to develop proper scopes for work. MassDOT has indicated this is now its current practice.

“Taxpayers expect construction projects to be done with expedience and with an eye toward maintaining public safety and containing costs,” said Auditor Bump. “Better project planning will produce better results in the future.”

This news item was adapted from an official release issued by the Office of the State Auditor for Massachusetts.

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