Early Decisions and Delays on the Zilwaukee, Michigan, Bridge Project

RCED-83-165: Published: Aug 17, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Zilwaukee Bridge project, a 90-percent federally funded bridge replacement project on Interstate 75 near Saginaw, Michigan.

The Zilwaukee project has experienced controversy, delays, revisions, and a near collapse of the northbound structure in August 1982. Construction has stopped until the damaged section can be repaired. GAO found that, based on available data, the decision to build a high-level bridge appears to be reasonable, considering cost estimates and the need to accommodate additional vehicle traffic. Further, the project was progressing until the August 1982 mishap. Delays were caused by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) alternate design requirement and the rejection of the first low bid. However, these factors did increase competition and reduce costs. GAO believes that some controversy and delay could have been avoided with better communication between FHWA and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). If MDOT had used value engineering or a similar cost-control program, the design might have been improved and costs reduced.

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