Aurora VA hospital cost estimate balloons to $1.73 billion

Photo: VA hospital in Aurora aerial shot
An aerial view of the VA hospital construction site in Aurora, Colo.

The Department of Veterans Affairs told Colorado's Congressional delegation Tuesday that its Aurora hospital project is now estimated to cost $1.73 billion.

That's a dramatic increase from an estimate of $580.2 million from 2011, when the VA awarded the construction contract to Kiewit-Turner. Costs have steadily risen since then, even leading to construction being temporarily shut down in December.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, helped get the project back online by pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to assist the VA. He issued a blistering statement Tuesday in reaction to the skyrocketing cost estimate.

"The VA’s mismanagement of this project is beyond belief and brings into question the competence of their leadership at every level,” he said.

After the December shutdown, Coffman and other members of Colorado's delegation began pushing a bill through Congress seeking additional funding. The new $1.73 billion estimate is based on research from the Corps of Engineers, VA officials said, and members of the delegation believe it to be more trustworthy than previous figures.

"The estimate includes the cost of construction, contingencies, and Army Corps of Engineers costs, as well as VA's cost to close out the original contract and continue construction until the Army Corps of Engineers assumes construction management duties," Gibson wrote in a letter to Congress quoted by the Denver Post.

Coffman, while "angered by the mismanagement of this project," says it will be finished.

"As a combat veteran serving in Congress I still have an obligation to see that this project is completed and that everything that can be done will be done to bring down the cost," he said.