First of major highway projects not even in ballpark of state estimates

OK Charleston, we might have a problem here.

Last week, it was discovered that bids for the first “big ticket” Roads to Prosperity projects exceeded state estimates.

Did we say exceeded? Make that rocketed past the initial cost estimate for the Interstate 70 projects in Wheeling.

The state’s estimate, according to the Division of Highways list of Roads to Prosperity list in September 2017, for the I-70 project was for

$172.5 million.

However, according to bid documents opened last week, the low bid for that project was

$275.16 million. That’s more than $100 million over estimates. The high bid was $347.8 million.

No, everyone need not jump to conclusions, yet, and start thinking such an inauspicious start on the Roads to Prosperity projects spells disaster.

Still, it raises a lot of concerns, especially about more than a dozen other “big ticket” projects — those costing more than $60 million.

If not for many other estimates for the hundreds of projects that fall under a half a dozen categories, including authorized, candidate and so on.

The DOH is reviewing the bids for the I-70 projects to determine if the state missed something or overlooked something in the market.

Far be it from us to know, but if these astronomical bids for the first of these major projects are a barometer of others we’re going to need more road bonds.

Needless to say, most West Virginians are beyond frustrated with the pace of road repairs and maintenance this summer. As for the road bond referendum the vast majority of the 11 percent of the electorate that voted for this discouraging.

Clearly, if the need arises to cut back on the list of authorized projects or others that should be done with public input and fair.

It’s also imperative that the public continue to be in the loop on the bidding process for other projects. But once the DOH and other officials finish reviewing the I-70 bid an honest explanation is due.

We understand cost overruns and projects exceeding estimates, but that typically happens — when it does — once the project is underway.

For now, let’s not look for someone to blame, but rather someone to explain how the I-70 project could come in so far above estimates.

And Charleston, we are more than likely going to need a solution.

For a complete list of Road to Prosperity projects go to: governor.wv.gov/AnalyticsReports/ Roads%20to%20Prosperity%20Project%20List.pdf.

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