Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Road Projects $248 Million Short; Earlier City Estimates Failed to Include Escalation Costs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Road Projects $248 Million Short; Earlier City Estimates Failed to Include Escalation Costs

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA, The Times-Union

Jacksonville officials will have to come up with an additional $248 million to complete about 40 road projects or figure out a way to cut costs, Mayor John Peyton's office reported Tuesday.

That's about $132 million more than Peyton's staff said he would need last year when the overruns and project additions first came to light. But last year's estimates for the Better Jacksonville Plan projects weren't intended to show how much the city would need to complete the roads, just how much they were over in 2004, said Susie Wiles, Peyton's spokeswoman.

"Before anybody had a fix, they would have gone back to figure out is this enough [to complete the projects]," Wiles said.

Not only did last year's estimates fail to include escalation costs, but Public Works Director Alan Mosley said he doesn't believe the 1998 and 1999 estimates from the John Delaney administration did so either. Mosley said the original estimates included a 20 percent contingency. But city planners told the Times-Union in 2000 that the 20 percent cushion was about twice what they felt was necessary for potential overruns.

Delaney, who sold the Better Jacksonville Plan to voters in 2000 when he was mayor, couldn't be reached for comment.

Peyton said he doesn't know how the city will pay for the 43 percent cost overruns or how he might change some of the projects. But he said this is the time to reconsider priorities.

"Naturally, in an ideal world we would like to build every project to accommodate not only our current needs but future needs," Peyton said. He said now it "looks like that may not be possible."

Reasons for the overruns include rising construction, labor and real estate costs, Wiles said. The latter are involved because the city is buying right-of-way property. …

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