Past deadline and over budget, some of Utah's largest projects have limped through decades toward completion.

Take the Central Utah Project, a grandiose, complicated system of pipelines and reservoirs, one of the largest public works projects in the nation. It was designed to hold back Uinta Mountain water for cultivation of Utah's desert, rather than letting the valuable resource flow into the Colorado River and wash into the Gulf of California.In 1956, the CUP proposal carried a $208 million price tag. In 1964, politicians announced that construction of the Jordanelle Dam would begin in 1966. The groundbreaking ceremony was in June 1987, 21 years late.

In 1965, the Bonneville Unit of the CUP was to be completed by 1980, for $323.8 million.

The first Colorado River water arrived in Salt Lake County in May 1986, only after voters approved repayment of an extra $335 million to continue work on the Bonneville Unit. By then, the Bonneville Unit's cost had risen to $2.2 billion, an increase over 20 years of 633 percent.

Then there's the interstate system.

Utah was targeted for 938 miles of America's 42,500-mile interstate highway system, which was approved by Congress in 1956. Projected completion date: 1972.

In 1964, Utah's interstate system had an estimated price tag of $295 million.

By May 1986, Utah Department of Transportation officials said only 815 miles had been finished. Now, officials say the state's $1.5 billion interstate system should be completed by the fall of 1990. Only two pieces are left to be constructed - an additional 20 miles of I-70 converted from two- to four-lanes west of Green River, and another 11 miles of I-15 connecting Tremonton to Garland.

Turning to buildings, escalating costs have plagued the sandstone City-County Building throughout its history. The government building was proposed with a $350,000 price tag but, at dedication ceremonies in 1894, came in nearly triple the cost, at $900,000.

In 1973, renovation of the crumbling building, which served 20 years as Utah's first state Capitol, was estimated at $3.2 million. By 1976, the projected cost had more than tripled to nearly $10 million, then in 1982 escalated to $18.1 million. (Of course, later plans aren't directly comparable to earlier cost estimates, as they included new cooling, electrical, plumbing and seismic stabilization systems. But then the later plans didn't include costs - running up to several million dollars - already spent on exterior touch-ups.)

In a Salt Lake election on April 29, 1986, voters approved the sale of $34.5 million in general obligation bonds to renovate the historic landmark and make it earthquake-safe with a high-tech base isolation system. Based on an interest rate of 7.6 percent, the project will cost more than $79 million, including principal and interest, over the 25-year pay-back plan. After three years of construction work, the building was reopened in April 1989.

Then there's the Salt Lake County Government Complex. Designed when the county decided to break out of its crowded half of the City-County Building, officials proposed building a $40 million to $50 million civic center. Commissioners spent $974 on 20 engraved, gold-painted shovels and 500 souvenir plastic hard hats for the building's groundbreaking ceremony in April 1985.

By dedication ceremonies in November 1987, the price tag for the 516,000-square-foot government office building had escalated to $54 million and included controversial amenities such as an employee exercise center, a 360-seat cafeteria, a day-care center and $250,000 worth of artwork. The building opened with 116 fire-code violations, while employees grumbled about the lack of private break rooms. It quickly earned the nicknames of "The Palace" and "Taj Mahal."

Another controversial public building is that longtime favorite, the Salt Palace. Initially termed by critics as a "white elephant," the arena complex was dedicated in July 1969, three months after the original construction completion date of March 10. The opening of the $19 million complex was plagued by echoing headaches. Draperies were installed a year later, apparently helping to muffle nagging acoustical problems.

Salt Lake County voters approved a bond election in 1980 to expand the structure. Construction was estimated at $12.5 million, a figure that officials admitted shortly after the election was "overly optimistic."

When the expansion opened in late 1983, construction costs had risen to nearly $19 million, equaling the cost of the original facility. Other costs, including land-acquisition, furnishings and consulting fees, brought the total bill to $24.4 million.

When the exhibit hall, which is larger than four football fields, was opened, the Salt Palace manager stated it would take five years, if ever, before enough conventions would be booked to pay the annual operating costs of the hall. Since inception, the Salt Palace complex has never operated in the black.

In a press conference last month, county officials announced they were considering a $50 million remodeling job to transform the outdated facilities into a world-class convention center.