Dr. Evil Now in Charge of Dan Ryan Budget

By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Sep 18, 2006 12:00PM

chicagoist_2006_09_drevil.jpgThe cost of the Dan Ryan reconstruction project will undoubtedly top $1 billion before it's all said and done. That headline probably jumped out at you as you scanned this weekend's papers just for the sheer massiveness of that figure. One beeeellion dollars. That's nine frickin' zeros, people. We're not saying it's not worth it, because before the construction the Ryan had to be one of the most terrifying driving experiences in the country. But that's almost twice as much as original estimates of $550 million. Look, we know the government isn't exactly shy about spending money they don't have, but that's a pretty obnoxious overdraft. What happened?

IDOT officials cite the rising cost of materials and labor, plus additional work to expand road capacity that was not part of the original plan, including seven bridges, extra lanes, and additional ramps. The gargantuan nature and complexity of the project has also squeezed out most contractors, preventing any real competition in the bidding process. Walsh Construction won all five of the major contracts, four of them facing no other bidders, mainly because they were the only company with the equipment, manpower and expertise to handle the job.

As startling as those numbers seem, Chicagoist isn't as concerned with the cost of the project as we are with the timetable, and at least for now everything is still on track. Once you get into the eight- or nine-digit range, the dollar figures lose all meaning anyway. We already assume it's getting pissed away; you might as well tell us it's going to cost a bazillion-kajillion dollars. Whatever, just get it done on time.