Multiple VT Bridges Reported as ‘Non-Compliant’
After a whistleblower alleged that four Vermont bridges were built with “non-conforming construction” practices, the Vermont Agency of Transportation announced a full investigation into the construction company responsible.
The four bridges in question involve two in Bennington, Vermont, on Route 279, and two bridges on Interstate 91 in Guildford, Vermont.
Announced at the end of August, the Agency of Transportation stated that it would be actively investigating the non-conforming construction services by contractor J.A. McDonald, Inc. pertaining to four bridges previously constructed by the company.
There's no indication from VTrans about what exactly J.A. McDonald, a contractor in Lyndon Center, may have done to build four bridges improperly. https://t.co/hP5tTJVeqB— Local 22 & Local 44 (@WVNYWFFF) August 31, 2019
“Safety is the number-one concern of this agency and has been our top concern in this matter,” said Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn in an AOT press release.
“While there is no immediate public safety concern, the agency will aggressively investigate any actions that allegedly violate our contracts, threaten the integrity of our infrastructure or undermine the public trust.”
As a response to the allegations, J.A. McDonald notes that the bridges in question were built while the company was under different ownership and that they plan to fully cooperate in the investigation.
“J.A. McDonald is a small Vermont company with a long history of quality construction for the state of Vermont and other clients,” Eric Boyden, president of J.A. McDonald said in a statement. “We have pledged transparency and our assistance to the State, and will work with AOT to address any issues discovered.”
During the investigation, AOT engineers were instructed to evaluate the bridges in question. Although AOT determined that the structures posed no immediate safety concerns, the agency also hired an engineering consultant to review the project designs and analyze impacts.
Using ground-penetrating radar and ultrasonic tests, in addition to visual examinations, all four bridges were confirmed to be safe and remain safe to full traffic capacity. However, the longevity of the structures was affected, shortening the traditional lifespan of 75-100 years to 50-75 years.
Since the investigation, J.A. McDonald has been made aware of the state’s intent to pursue legal recourse under the state’s laws prohibiting fraudulent activities and false claims, and has been informed that it will no longer be eligible to work on additional AOT projects or on projects using AOT grant funds.
The state is also reviewing potential contract claims and will work to mitigate the impacts of this ongoing investigation and ensuing legal action on the communities.
What’s Happening Now
According to VTDigger, prior to the state’s ruling on J.A. McDonald’s involvement with AOT contracts, the company was already under contract with AOT regarding two other projects in Vermont. Awards for the projects are also reported to have been awarded prior to the confirmed allegations.
Because halting construction would cause significant and expensive delays, the agency has stated that additional oversight would be assigned to J.A. McDonald “to ensure the integrity of the work meets the contract requirements.”