The ballooning price of a construction project on the Goethals Bridge has many residents of New Jersey and Staten Island seeing red.
The administration and maintenance complex currently being built has seen its budget increase from $18 million to $28 million.
The complex is currently home to 80 civilian and police employees. It is located on the Staten Island side and serves as an administrative, maintenance and police command center for the Goethals and Bayonne Bridges as well as the Outerbridge Crossing.
Port Authority officials told the Star Ledger that the 56 percent increase was due to a work stoppage resulting from employees complaining of being exposed to toxins.
The Ledger notes that critics of the projects strategy claim that the cost saving measure of housing staff in the facility as construction was underway was a mistake.
Authority officials argue it used a fiscally and morally responsible planning strategy throughout the project.
“The administrative staff believed that the work could be done both safely and cost effectively, with staff in place — initially,” said a Port Authority spokesman, Ron Marsico to the Staten Island Advance.
“Our staff raised concerns about the work, we listened to those concerns, we stopped the work for four months, and we moved staff out of the facility before the work resumed,” stressed Marsico.
However, the relocation of workers was not the only issue that drove up costs. Port Authority police have also contributed to the rising costs. More than a dozen have filed workers compensation claims citing respiratory and throat illnesses due to exposure to asbestos particles, lead paint dust or other toxic substances released into the air and onto floors, walls and other surfaces at the complex.
"Your uniform would have dust all over it as you’re walking down the hall,” Jerome Crimi, a police officer stationed at the complex told the Star Ledger.
The project has been under construction since March of 2008. Work was halted in February 2009 but resumed four months later; the project is on schedule to be completed by mid-year 2011.
Port Authority commissioners approved the project’s increased cost at a meeting on June 22, on the recommendation of its Construction Committee, chaired by Commissioner Anthony Sartor in absence of committee chairman Raymond M. Pocino.
Additional costs noted at the meeting included an increase in the contractor’s fee and a $1 million claim by the contractor for lost business resulting from suspension of the Goethals job.
Victoria Cross Kelly, the Port Authority’s director of bridges, tunnels and terminals, had briefed Sartor on the increased cost during a committee meeting earlier that day, according to the Star Ledger.
At the meeting she also $5 million would be needed to cover the moving costs associated with the work stoppage.
Kelly told the committee that employees had been told of the work ahead of time and had not expressed their concerns before work began.
When the committee asked her why employees would have raised concerns only after the work did begin, she said, “it’s one thing to hear about it, it’s another to live through it.”