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L.A. Sues over Crumbling $240M Runway

Monday, October 21, 2013

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The City of Los Angeles has filed suit against four construction firms that built a $240 million airport runway that is deteriorating and “unfit” after just six years.

R & L Brosamer, HNTB Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and a joint venture involving Tutor-Saliba Corp. and O&G Industries Inc. are named as defendants in the suit, which alleges widespread construction flaws and concrete defects that are causing the south runway at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to fall apart before its time.

'Unfit for its Intended Purpose'

The 13,000-foot runway known as 25L, which opened in April 2007, "is unfit for its intended purpose, and the city will incur ongoing consequential property damage and economic losses as a result of the deficiencies," according to the suit, filed Oct. 10 in Superior Court in Torrance and quoted by several news outlets.

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Officials for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) say the concrete deterioration poses no immediate danger. The airport is the third busiest in the U.S.

A copy of the lawsuit was not immediately available.

“As a result of the defendants’ negligent construction, the runway is deteriorating in an accelerated fashion and will ultimately interfere with ongoing runway operations," says the suit, filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

Typically, a commercial runway has a life span of 20 to 25 years, but the city says it will have to prematurely rebuild the two-and-a-half-mile project, which would disrupt air traffic at the nation's third-largest airport.

Concrete Pours Cited

The suit alleges damaged concrete, exposed rebar, early deterioration and loss of concrete, mortar lift-off, cracking and pop-outs of concrete sections. Some pieces of concrete have flaked or broken off, the complaint says.

Jon Russell, a safety expert with the Air Line Pilots Association, told the Los Angeles Times that material from the runway might eventually break loose, if the deterioration continues, and could be sucked into a plane's jet engine, causing serious damage.

The Times also reported that the runway did not meet current Federal Aviation Administration standards.

The city's suit accuses the contractors of improper concrete work, among other things, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

“Defendants’ concrete pours consisted of a concrete mix that neither met the contract construction specification requirements nor conformed to acceptable means, methods and techniques regarding placing and finishing concrete such that the runway is deficient and will have to be replaced,” the complaint said, according to the newspaper.

Endeavour lands at LAX
K-Squared Ramblings

Space Shuttle Endeavour landed on LAX's Runway 25L in 2012 after its last mission.

The faulty concrete may have been used in other airport structures as well, the suit says.

Monitoring Underway

LAX officials say the runway, which handles up to 500 takeoffs and landings a day, poses no immediate danger.

"Maintenance, engineering and airport operations staffs will continue to monitor the condition of the runway to ensure it remains safe for aircraft operations," airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles told the Times.

The Runway 25L project was part of a $338 million package of airport safety improvements that included a new center taxiway.

Defendants: No Response

The defendant companies all were either unavailable for comment or declined to comment, news reports said.

Reports noted that Tutor-Saliba has been involved in LAX issues before. In 2003, city inspectors reported defects in an LAX airport parking garage built by Tutor-Saliba that was part of a $34 million FlyAway bus project.

Tutor-Saliba initially refused to fix the defects, the Los Angeles Times reported, but eventually "removed several concrete columns, reinforced other beams and replaced substandard concrete, resulting in project delays."

The newspaper added:

"The company has handled numerous projects successfully but also has been accused of fraud and shoddy workmanship related to the Los Angeles subway, San Francisco International Airport and public works projects in New York.

"Those matters have cost the builder tens of millions of dollars in legal judgments, settlements and penalties."


Tagged categories: Airports; Certifications and standards; Concrete; Concrete defects; Construction; Contractors; General contractors; Government contracts; Quality Control

Comment from WAN MOHAMAD NOR WAN ABDUL RAHMAN, (10/21/2013, 6:13 AM)

Who can we blame? While THE TAXPAYERS have to pay for the consequences from the faulty workmanship THE CONTRACTORS gets away with the profits. A stiffer penalty is needed to punish the offenders.

Comment from John Fauth, (10/21/2013, 8:34 AM)

The best deterrent is a strong likelihood of being caught. But the government has a poor track record of fraud prevention in every agency, because the chances of being caught are relatively minimal. In this instance no one got caught supplying substandard concrete, faulty placement or finishing during the construction phase. There's your problem. It wasn't until years later when the poor concrete poses a serious hazard to airline passengers that anyone gets caught. Too much money to spend, not enough people to ensure that its spent well.

Comment from Jim Johnson, (10/21/2013, 10:01 AM)

Why did inspectors allow faulty concrete to be poured? If there was inadequate inspection then LAX themselves is responsible for failing to provide for adequate inspection and protection of taxpayer funds. Just the fact it is failing it appears the contractors did faulty work, the supplier provided faulty material and the LAX oversight of tax payer funds was far from adequate. While the contractors and suppliers can settle claims in dollars, the decision makers at LAX cannot be made to provide dollars, but if they erred their resignation is certainly in order.

Comment from Mark Puckett, (10/21/2013, 10:42 AM)

With current QC testing and inspection procedures this is unbelievable. With cylinder breaks and other tests at time of pours this is unfathomable unless people were on the take

Comment from Andrew Smith, (10/21/2013, 6:31 PM)

There was a similar situation with the runway at Hanoi airport a few years ago. I believe that the concrete contractor was found guilty of providing sub standard material and was subsequently executed. Perhaps extreme, but reflects the seriousness with which the Vietnam govenment viewed putting lives at risk for the sake of profit.

Comment from Barry Sudom, (10/22/2013, 11:52 AM)

So where were the inspectors on this job? It's easy to blame the contractors but they only do things in accordance with the contract and there should be enough QA/QC to protect against issues. Maybe the wrong type of concrete was specified in the first place? Often organizations take on these huge rehab or expansion projects and they are ill equipped to build a proper contract with enough technical requirments. The consulting firm in this case would also be suspect as they would have likely been respsonsiblr ofr the design, specifications, and QA/QC.

Comment from Mark Anater, (10/22/2013, 12:55 PM)

We don't know enough yet to assign blame for this situation, but that never stops anyone. The specifier, contractor, owner, inspector, supplier - everyone relies on everyone else to do their part. When one part breaks down, the result can be disaster, like this. Until we know more, observers will blame their favorite scapegoats. Libertarian types go after government, engineers and contractors blame each other, and so on.

Comment from peter gibson, (10/22/2013, 2:30 PM)

Again, the contract was awarded to the lowest bidder.These contractors are incapable of self monitoring quality. The city provided no inspectors. The end result is now self evident.

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