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City of Olympia suspends work on Henderson Boulevard project

In this file photo, traffic rolls slowly  through the stalled construction project on Henderson Boulevard. The project to install new sewer lines had run so far over deadline that the City of Olympia suspended the project.
In this file photo, traffic rolls slowly through the stalled construction project on Henderson Boulevard. The project to install new sewer lines had run so far over deadline that the City of Olympia suspended the project. The Olympian

OLYMPIA - Sewer construction that has interrupted southbound traffic on Henderson Boulevard might drag on until April, five months after the expected completion date, according to the City of Olympia.

The city has suspended work on the project and is in the process of getting rid of its contractor and hiring a new one.

Fran Eide, a city engineer, said the city is working to end the $824,993 contract with Ro-Con Equipment Specialist of Black Diamond. She would not say why.

“We do acknowledge and apologize for the inconvenience that this causes for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” she said.

She said the city and Ro-Con are negotiating how much more work the contractor will do and what it will be paid. The contractor is cooperative and hasn’t filed a grievance, she said, adding that, “I don’t want to paint them, you know, with a bad brush on this.”

Ro-Con representatives didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The project, which began in September, has caused major disruptions for motorists and bus riders. Workers reduced travel on Henderson Boulevard to one lane weekdays between North Street and Yelm Highway, allowing only northbound traffic from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. The city said the closure would last through Oct. 31, and the project was expected to wrap by mid-November.

But crews ran into trouble. In an interview last month, Eide said the project had been bogged down by unmarked utility lines and unanticipated masses of underground concrete. As the project continued, the weather worsened.

By mid-December, the city had suspended work on the project, opening both lanes to traffic in the interim. Intercity Transit buses will remain on the detour route until the project is finished to avoid confusing riders.

Eide said the city hopes to resume the project with a new contractor in January. She said it’s unclear whether the city will pick one of the four other bidders for the job or re-bid the project.

It’s also unclear how long it will take to complete the project. The sewer installation must be finished by mid-April to tie into a new lift station along Yelm Highway, which is also under heavy construction.

Eide said the sewer work expands the city’s gravity sewer system, lessening its reliance on septic tank effluent pumping systems.

She said the project, even with a second contractor, still could come in under budget.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-350-8231 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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