Tumwater officials are catching heat for their management of the Littlerock Road reconstruction project.
Alpha Development Corp. of Tacoma, the general contractor for the $4.3 million construction project, has notified the city it cannot complete the project.
Unfortunately, Tumwater is gaining a bad reputation for its oversight of road construction.
It’s been more than a decade, but drivers still remember the debacle on Cleveland Avenue. Tumwater had an awful experience widening and improving the roadway in front of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and O Bee Credit Union. Engineers kept traffic flowing through that project, which ended up stretching into the rainy period and months and months beyond the scheduled completion date. The muddy ruts were practically impassible.
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Tumwater officials learned a lesson and during some future road project – North Street, for example – stopped the flow of traffic in hopes of completing the project on time.
Then there was the winter of 2007 when Tumwater officials had five major road construction projects going at the same time.
The Tumwater/Henderson Boulevard project had drivers and homeowners hopping mad. Having 15-minute delays during the work commute was intolerable – to say nothing of the homeowners who lost power, telephone and water service and had difficulty just getting to their driveways.
That project, coupled with advance work on Littlerock Road funneled most of the traffic in Tumwater onto Capitol Boulevard, which quickly became a parking lot.
Ten-minute morning and evening commutes were turned into 30-minute – or longer – nightmares.
Tumwater City Hall was flooded with complaints, which led to a new city policy to better manage winter construction projects.
Drivers are accustomed to construction delays in the summertime, but the new problems associated with Alpha Development Corporation’s exodus from the Littlerock Road project, means two prime construction months will be lost.
In late April, Alpha served notice that it was abandoning the project for reasons that are still unclear. Company officials also backed out of the North Street road project, which was nearly complete.
With Alpha’s exodus, Tumwater officials terminated both contracts and turned to Alpha’s bonding company to make good on the contracts.
“We’re working very closely with the bonding company,” Public Works director Jay Eaton said of the Littlerock Road project. “We’re really moving it ahead as rapidly as we can. The bonding company is, I believe, being very proactive and responsible in what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a delay in getting the project completed.”
Bonding company officials have requested cost estimates from four contractors who originally bid on the project and expects those estimates midway through the month. The bonders will review the estimates and suggest a new contractor to city officials.
The good news is the city and its taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for additional money.
The bad news, of course, is the delay in getting the project completed. Littlerock Road is a major north/south connector. Black Hills High School and Tumwater Middle School are both on Littlerock Road, as are popular retail outlets such as Costco, Fred Meyer and Home Depot. The road, which has been torn up seemingly forever, is a major thoroughfare in Tumwater’s transportation system.
And now two prime construction months are being lost while a new contractor comes on board.
While the delay is an inconvenience for drivers, it’s a pain for those who live along the roadway. And torn up roadways have a way of driving away business from merchants unfortunate enough to be located on Littlerock.
But at least some progress is being made. City officials predict construction will resume in late July or early August. In the interim, Johnson & Maddox Construction of Olympia is doing maintenance and providing traffic control on Littlerock Road.
A different bonding company is working through the stalled North Street project, which needs a final layer of asphalt and some clean-up work.
While the delay on Littlerock Road lies with the contractor, not the city, the fiasco only adds to Tumwater City Hall’s negative reputation when it comes to road construction projects.