LOS ANGELES—A city report found the cost of overhauling a major container terminal at the Port of Los Angeles has more than doubled during the past four years, mostly because of design changes pushed through without the approval of elected officials.

The cost of the 173-acre terminal redevelopment north of the Vincent Thomas Bridge has skyrocketed to $510 million—up from the estimated $245 million when the City Council authorized the project in 2009, according to a city analysis cited by the Los Angeles Times. ( http://lat.ms/1bNk2nJ).

The City Council signed off Tuesday on the project changes, but members were highly critical of the circumstances.

"This situation is pretty much a hot, stinking mess," Councilman Mike Bonin said.

Legal questions have been raised about whether port executives should have obtained approval from the harbor commission and council for the project changes, the Times said.

Bonin said the upgrade brings up "serious governance questions."

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the harbor area, said he was "blindsided" by the sharply higher costs and warned other port programs could be affected.

On Monday, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield agreed his agency made a mistake in not bringing project amendments forward sooner.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti told the Times that new management at the port would require outside experts to review such large-scale projects.

Under the project plan approved in 2009, the port was to redevelop the wharves, expand the terminal's size, and construct new buildings.

But within months, port officials and TraPac, the company that will operate the container terminal, changed the scope of the project, opting to install rail-mounted automated cranes instead of using cranes with rubber wheels, records show.

The changes to the crane design initially were expected to add $27 million to project costs. But construction complications drove up the price by $175 million, according to harbor officials.

A message left by The Associated Press seeking comment from TraPac was not immediately returned Tuesday.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com