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Big Bridge, Big Bill

SCRANTON -- A major bridge project in Scranton is nearing completion. The new Harrison Avenue bridge is expected to be open to drivers next month but, it's coming with a much bigger price tag than expected.

PennDOT still has about a year's worth of work to do at the site but the new bridge should be open to drivers in a few weeks.

When the project was first started back in 2014, it was expected to cost the state about $14 million dollars, but now, the bill is almost double that.

The bridge that will soon welcome drivers after nearly three years of work is slightly lower than its century-old counterpart. But, the span that connects Scranton's east and south sides is turning out to have a much higher price tag than originally expected.

When PennDOT bid the project back in 2014, the bridge was expected to cost close to $14 million dollars now, it's expected to cost $30 million.

PennDOT spokesperson James May says there are several reasons for that. One problem, crews found that many features of the design just didn't work in construction.

"Quite frankly, some of the issues are things looking back on it, we look and think it could have been, should have been caught in the design phase," May said. "Some of them are just things when you get out here and start looking, and start working on this bridge, you see what you're dealing with."

One of those new costs came from the old bridge once crews got out here and started planning the demolition of it, things got a little more complicated.

They found that the bridge's main supports were hollow and filled with dirt and debris by its builders back in 1920. That dramatically altered demolition plans.

"You end up in this domino effect. When one change is made, oftentimes it leads to numerous subsequent changes that add to the price of the project," May explained.

PennDOT has since changed its procedure to help stay within budgets. They've added a new position -- someone who works as a liaison between designers and the crews on site.

PennDOT officials say another reason the price tag is so much higher is that the state actually tacked on another bridge project elsewhere in Lackawanna County onto this contract -- the Edella Road bridge in South Abington Township.

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10 comments

  • JohnKimball

    If the bidder or anybody at PennDOT or the state agreed to this original bid knowing that the price would end up doubling, that would be potentially criminal fraud, right? Is anybody going to look into this? And what’s this about tacking the cost of another bridge onto this one? Sounds like some kind of Mickey Mouse accounting. I would have a few follow-up questions for these PennDOT “officials”.

  • Lance

    Somebody should be held accountable for the cost overums on this project. Double the original estimate? Penndot don’t care its only tax payer money. And they wonder why Pennsylvania State budget is in the red?

  • Erik Latranyi

    More waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money.

    So, the designers, who were wrong about the design, now were given a liaison to communicate between the failed designers and the construction crews. More wasted money.

    But, this is the Wolf Administration at work, wasting your money, crony contracts and wasteful positons (liaison) for friends and family.

    • joe

      i’m not defending wolf, but these projects are earmarked in advance, sometimes 10yrs.
      I may be wrong, but I don’t think wolf is to blame.
      the blame starts at the top of the engineering dept & rolls down hill.
      heads should roll over this HUGE mistake.

  • Sickening

    One would think that supports that weren’t solid concrete would be easier and cheaper to remove. Am I missing something? I’m no engineer but why was that such a big problem?
    Nothing like more than doubling what was budgeted and no one is fired.

  • Nick from NEPA

    +-$15 million dollars worth of mistakes/design errors that lead to change orders? Please let me ask, who pays for this? I mean, we all know the answer. This truly is unconscionable…… I assume the “low bidder” was taken for this one to start. What a complete waste of added time and dollars. Shameful PennDot engineering & design + project management.