Sterling W&OD Overpass Delayed; Saines Slams Slow Communication

Delays to plans to build a W&OD Trail bridge over Sterling Boulevard—and a lack of communication around those delays—caused Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) to express frustration during Thursday’s work session on the county’s Capital Improvement Program.

Previously, the project was scheduled to begin construction around Fiscal Year 2023, which begins July 2022. But the updated capital budget proposed this year shows construction on that project delayed by two years. Saines said that caught him unaware—and having accidentally sent out wrong information to constituents. He told county staff members that is “unacceptable.”

“When my staff emailed you guys this past summer to get an update on big projects like this, and gave us an update, we were given a timeframe,” Saines said during the Feb. 20 session. “We put that timeframe out to the residents. If you guys discovered a mistake or calculation or had to go back and reevaluate, and the number changes or the time frame changes, we should have been notified.”

But county staff members also told the members of the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee it’s unlikely that schedule can be moved up, because of familiar culprits—increasing construction costs, and the utility company.

“The main drivers here are the utility relocation,” said County Administrator Tim Hemstreet. “Part of the challenge is that the utility will not necessarily operate on our schedule.”

The changes in the project have also more than doubled its cost—from $8.2 million, to nearly $18.9 million.

Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Deputy Director Bruce Johnston said the schedule change came as county staff members try to make the most realistic estimates of project timelines that they can, to avoid having to deal with delays based on overly optimistic schedules. That has meant a second look at the schedules for almost all the projects in the county’s capital plans.

“What happened tonight so far is that we’ve fallen into the older trap,” Johnston said. But he also said that although county staff members will look for ways the speed up the W&OD overpass project, the new projections are “the most realistic picture we can paint.”

Hemstreet also sought to take the heat for his staff members.

“That is not acceptable, that’s my fault and I take responsibility for that, so I apologize for that,” Hemstreet said.

“Your duty to us is to give us the best information that you can,” said committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “We may not always like those answer, but if it is what it is, then I think we’d rather hear it.”

[email protected]

Leave a Reply