The visitor

Do hummingbirds have really, really small wristwatches? A hummer was flitting by about 2 p.m. every day to check out these red fellows. I got my camera, a chair, and a book (one of Philip Kerr’s excellent Bernie Gunther novels) and settled in to wait. Sure enough….


I-94 study? $3 million per mile

The state spent more than $3 million a mile on a study related to its plan to reconstruct and expand a 3.5-mile stretch of I-94 from 70th Street to 16th Street, records show.

The big winners are two of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s favorite contractors — Ch2M Hill ($4.2 million) and HNTB ($2.4 million).

The total cost of $10,683,806 — or $3,052,516 per mile — included guaranteed 8% profit margins for contractors and overhead rates as high as 160%, according to the documents.

The contract was amended eight times and the study cost rose 24%, or $2.1 million, in less than three years, from June 2012 to March 2015, records show. The cost increase was due, in part, to WisDOT’s decision to expand the project area by moving the eastern boundary from 25th Street to 16th Street.

Ash Anandanarayanan, transportation policy director for 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a land use organization, said he believes the study’s high costs are “a result of the DOT failing to invest in adequate in-house engineering expertise. The cartel of consulting firms are free to inflate prices  in the absence of any meaningful competition.”

The cost of the single study is about 69% of the $15.5 million (including salt!) WisDOT is allocating to Milwaukee County this year for routine maintenance of state highways in the county.