West Side Highway Project Cost Estimate

CED-81-33: Published: Dec 4, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 4, 1980.

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An investigation of the cost of the West Side Highway Project (Westway) was performed to determine if New York State's current estimate was based on a thorough analysis of all costs expected to be involved in Westway's construction. Westway's current cost estimates are based on preliminary engineering designs that were developed originally by New York State for 1975, and approved by the Secretary of Transportation in 1977.

Since Westway is not yet in the detailed design engineering stage, where actual construction design specifications will be developed for contract bidding, it was believed that a detailed cost analysis would be inconclusive. In addition, any opposition to Westway due to its environmental impact would undoubtedly affect projected cost estimates. GAO nevertheless reviewed the available cost estimate data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which was prepared for 1979 by New York State and FHWA. Because these cost estimates were prepared early in 1978, they were based on the 1977 composite construction index. Since that time FHWA has issued its 1979 index, which GAO used to adjust the cost estimates to represent 1979 dollars. Analysis showed that nearly $1.5 billion would be eligible for 90-percent Federal funding. However, the actual cost to construct Westway could be much larger, since the adjusted cost estimates did not reflect inflationary costs beyond 1979.

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