Bob Haase Another Can Of Worms

Why Is It Costing So Much?

Whenever I hear the proposed cost of any major project such as building construction or road construction I wonder why it is costing that much to build it.  I was watching a program on our deteriorating roads and bridges in our country and they showed a number of bridges in one city out east and indicated a cost of 1.7 billion dollars to replace one bridge.  They then stated that the city had over 40 bridges that needed major repair or replacement.  Look at the construction on highway 41 during the last few years in areas like Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, and Milwaukee.  I realize that we need to plan for future traffic loads but it seems like we are overbuilding many of these projects.

One of the major problems in construction is that the architects and civil engineers get paid a percentage of the cost of the project.  The higher the cost of the project the more they make.  There is no incentive to design a cost effective building or highway.  There are a number of ways that construction costs could be cut and still have a safe and long lasting building or highway. 

An example is the road improvement that were done to the dike road and dam in Montello, Wisconsin  the last two years.  They did not feel the dike was safe, but when they had flooding a few years ago they ran the semi’s on this dike road instead of the main highway feeling the dike road was safer.  They did an inspection of the dam and said that it was structurally safe, but as long as they were doing the work they might as well rebuild it for another million dollars more.  They estimated the total project of rebuilding this dike road and the repairs to the dam and locks at around 10 million dollars.  The final work came in at less than half of the projected amount which was good but did they even need to spend that much?  I would agree that work might have been needed to increase the load bearing ability of the dike road in case of a flood, but could they have done the needed repairs to the locks and road for 1 million, or 2 million, or 3 million?  We are only talking a million here and a million there but it all adds up for all the projects in the state.

Look at the construction in Oshkosh with all the concrete barriers and round-abouts.   Could they have made the highway improvements at a lower cost?  They might have but our Federal and State governments have guidelines and standards that need to be met which add greatly to the cost of the project.  Are all these necessary?

I believe in doing things right, but I also believe in doing what is necessary and not adding the extra nice to have’s unless we can afford it.  As an example when we built our home we put Formica counter tops in our kitchen instead of marble, stone, or a more expensive alternatives.  We could have easily added another $50,000 to the cost of our home, but we saved where we could.  We put those savings into better construction and energy features that we benefit from every year in energy costs.  The fancier counter tops would not have provided any savings.   With the deficits we are facing in our state and Federal governments maybe we can’t afford the frills, but let’s make the needed improvements and repairs.  Let’s also find a way to reward the design engineers for designing good but more affordable roads instead of rewarding them for designing the most expensive alternatives.


Bob Haase is the host of  “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.