TN Charging Contractor for Construction Delays
According to reports, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be charging a contractor $1,000 for every day a long-overdue construction project on I-75 takes to complete. The project, which began in 2016 and was originally supposed to take two years to complete, has faced multiple delays and changes in contractors.
TDOT Spokesperson Mark Nagi told ABC 10News that the project is expected to be completed this fall and that workers have begun a 24/7 shift schedule for paving operations.
Work for the project started in the spring of 2016, with plans add an additional lane to a 4.6 mile stretch of I-75 on Caryville Mountain in Campbell County. Construction was originally anticipated to be finished in May 2018.
In anticipation of the project, the lanes were narrowed, shoulders were reduced and traffic delays were planned. Additionally, tractor-trailer traffic was required to use left-hand lanes in the construction zones.
However, in October 2018, already five months after its deadline, TDOT announced that it would be ending its contract with Potter South.
TDOT charging contractor $1,000 per day for I-75 construction delays; should finish this Fall https://t.co/vlIINrVLzK— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) May 10, 2022
“Due to the complexity of the project, and because of the contractor's workload and the need to complete this project expeditiously, we felt that it was in the best interest of the Department to cancel this contract for convenience,” Nagi said in a statement at the time. “Both the state and the contractor were agreeable to this decision.”
The department began accepting new bids for the remainder of the project through mid-November, with the new contract being awarded to Twin K Construction (Helenwood, Tennesee). A new completion date was then set for September 2019.
According to reports, drivers noted that it appeared to them that workers tore down all the work that had already been accomplished, including a concrete barrier wall, and started over. After finding “serious drainage issues” in the area, the date was pushed back again to December 2020 and an additional $3 million was added to expenses.
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals spoke to Twin K owner Steve Howard following the discovery, saying that work on the project would be “amped up” once it began again.
“They’re going to be working every day and into the nights to get that project completed,” Tibbals said. “They feel like they can be finished well ahead of the completion date of December 2020.”
The project was reportedly placed on hold while TDOT reworked the scope of the contract.
Nagi told ABC 10News in 2021 that the contractor “encountered several unforeseen issues with the storm drain system within this portion of the interstate. These unforeseen issues have resulted in additional work to the contractor and as a result delayed the completion date of the contract.”
Contractors were then working to reinstall reinforced concrete pipe and started gradework for both the northbound and southbound inside the shoulders, as well as making repairs to the drainage system. Afterwards, paving and construction of a new concrete median barrier wall were anticipated, with work expected to be completed by 2021 if it remained on schedule.
A number of potholes have also been reportedly patched in the construction zone.
According to reports, TDOT is assessing liquidated damages of $1,000 per day against the contractor for every day beyond the approved contract completion date. Through March, Nagi said, this has added up to $109,000 in fines.
Two contractors have been paid a total of $35,857,096 for work performed through March 2022 after a contract was canceled with Potter South in October 2018.
“Remaining work includes completion of paving in the Southbound direction,” Nagi said in a statement. “The contractor plans to mobilize to pave two inside lanes in the northbound direction over the next two weeks.”
Traffic will then reportedly be shifted over to the inside lanes while the remaining drainage work is completed on the outside section of the road. After that work, paving will begin on the northbound outside lane and shoulder, with guardrail and striping taking place as sections of paving are completed.
While the project delays have been a headache for drivers in the area, some still doubt the construction will be finished by its deadline later this year, as Nagi reports that the construction is in its “closing stages.”
“It’s miserable,” said Jennifer Guin, who drives the section of road twice a week. “I don’t think they’re ever going to get it done. It don’t seem like it anyways.”
“It’s a mess, it’s hard. It’s hard passing all these trucks down through there and the road is so narrow. It’s a problem,” said Janice Singleton, who was driving to Oneida on Tuesday. “It's not going to get done anytime soon.”