TxDOT Underestimates Highway 6 Project

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The highway 6 widening project will cost nearly three and a half times what was originally estimated. The Texas Department of Transportation admits they underestimated the acquisition cost of the project. As a result, Brazos County owes more than a million dollars more than they budgeted and finding the additional funds won't be an easy task.

Construction has started on Highway 6 South, and the planning price tag keeps on growing.

In 2001 TxDOT estimated the project would cost $5.8 million dollars. It included the cost of the land acquisition, and utility adjustments.

"We ask the county or the city, whoever is participating in that project to pay 10% of acquisitions and utility adjustments," Sam Wilson with TxDOT said.

Brazos County, the state's only contributing partner in this project, has paid about $900,000, and they're about to shell out even more.

"They're coming back with 900-thousand to finish the project on Highway 6 now and that only goes to buying and securing the right of ways," Brazos County Judge Randy Sims said.

Since 2001, TxDOT says they've taken a closer look and it's forced the price tag up. They now know the worth of the land and how much they must acquire, that there are 19 utility adjustments, and it has cost $2.6 million dollars to offset damage done to the environment.

"We gave it our best guess," Wilson said. "You try to make that guess concurrently with producing the right of way map which is a little more of a fine tuning look as the acquisition."

The price tag now stands at over 19 million dollars. The county's share 1 million, 963-thousand-dollars, more than a million dollars over what commissioners expected, and budged for.

"We'll just have to talk to them at budget time," Judge Sims said. "We'll try to get it budgeted. I don't know whether the $900,000 is there, maybe they'll take it in 2 year payments, I don't know."

TxDOT says they told the county five years ago that the $5.8 million dollar figure was only an estimate and that the price very likely would go up.

"It would be a good logical assumption to think that in five to six years passing, that the price will definitely increase," Wilson said.

As for the difference between the estimate and the total price, they say it's a guess based on very preliminary data. Data that's left the county scrambling for funds.

"Budget time is going to be a tough go this year," Judge Sims said.

The estimated construction cost of the project is $100.3 million.
Construction started in March and should be completed by April 2010.
The finished project will be a freeway similar to the bypass.