Millions of additional dollars approved for Waller Creek Tunnel Project

Waller Creek Tunnel project. (Waller Creek Conservancy Photo/Jim Innes)
Waller Creek Tunnel project. (Waller Creek Conservancy Photo/Jim Innes)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council approved millions more of tax payer money on the Waller Creek Tunnel project.

The project will eventually take 28 acres of downtown property out of the flood zone. City staff said they need $7.5 million in order to get the project finished.

The reason for needing additional funds started back in 2014, when work had to stop on the project after it was discovered it was too tall and blocking the Capitol View Corridor. Somehow that design flaw was missed by both city engineers and the city staff who approved the design.

The contractor on the job want to be reimbursed for the costs. They say so far it has cost them $8 million in overhead to keep equipment on site, and have their work force ready to go.

City staff is recommending they receive $5 million. Another $2 million is being requested for other contracts due to other design flaws and $500,000 in a contingency fund. If approved that would bring the total cost of the project to $163 million.

“Businesses that do this go out of business, you can’t do this and be this loose with other people’s money or you’ll go out of business and you’ll cease to exist,” says Don Zimmerman, Austin City Council.  “But if you are city government there is no end to this kind of mismanagement and incompetence that can go forward indefinitely.”

Council member Don Zimmerman says he’s voting against this proposal because the reasoning for additional funds is what he heard last year when city council approved another $6.2 million for the project.

“Well now it turns out that $6.2 million is completely gone and they are demanding another $7.5 million and I’m hearing the same argument – we have to pay the $7.5 million so we can finish the project then we’ll go to court to resolve the disputes over who is responsible for the cost overruns is it the city or the contractor,” says Zimmerman. “So this is Deja Vu.”

Zimmerman says city staff hopes to recoup some of the $5 million they are willing to pay the contractor by taking them to court to work out who is really responsible for paying for the work stoppage over the past two years.

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