“The progress has stopped at this time until the bonding company can get a new contractor on board to finish the job,” said DeJarvis Leonard, engineer for the fourth division of the Alabama Department of Transportation. “The previous contractor was defaulted. He’s no longer on the job and the bonding company has taken over the job.”
Leonard said it is unknown when work could resume on the road, which is to connect Interstate 20 with U.S. 431 and Alabama 21.
The bonding company, the contractor’s insurer, is the official contractor, but it is not doing construction work. The company is working to hire a new contractor to take over for L&T Construction, he said.
Leonard said he wasn’t sure of the reasons the department placed the contractor in default. He also wasn’t sure how long it would take to get a new contractor on the project or how far the default has set the project back. However, he said, there is still a lot of work to be done. About 60 percent of the grading has been finished at this point, Leonard said.
“The portion that you can see is basically graded, but there’s still several thousand yards of material that has to be moved on the southern portion of that section,” Leonard said.
The federal stimulus package, approved by Congress in 2009, set aside $47 million for the project. L&T was the low bidder on that job, at $29 million.
Dan Cordell, the general manager for Mississippi-based L&T, the original contractor, said the project has been stalled for quite a while. It was shut down from the end of July until mid-October because of a design flaw, Cordell said.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management shut down the project because one of the streams scheduled to be realigned was an environmentally protected stream, Cordell said.
“Some of that work had already been under process,” Cordell said. “So they halted everything.”
L&T hired an environmental consultant to assess the situation, he said, and the consultant determined that the damage done to the stream was not done by L&T and there were no measures in the design plan to protect the site.
L&T filed a claim for potential damages related to the stream-related shutdown in November and eight days later, it received letter of warning of termination from ALDOT, Cordell said.
Cordell said the company’s failure to acknowledge the warning letter and the lagging schedule were given as the reasons for the termination.
He also said, “We believe that (terminating the company) was a method of trying to get out of paying for what was actually a design issue.”
Leonard would only say that ALDOT and L&T had a difference of opinion.
“There’s several issues that L&T and ALDOT are working through,” Leonard said. “We have a difference of opinion.”
Leonard said he would provide more details later.
Star staff writer Laura Camper:256-235-3545.