L.A. Sues over Crumbling $240M Runway
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.
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.
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.
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."