Delays on SR 92 project lead to headaches for commuters, fine for contractor

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 8:43 p.m. MST

LEHI  — An Oct. 20 deadline for the completion of the state Route 92 rebuild has come and gone and as result, financial assessments of $15,000 day are piling up for the contractor until the project is complete.

The road-widening of Timpanogos Highway — adding a lane in each direction as well as a center lane — also includes the state's first express commuter lanes to provide motorists with a "direct connect" with I-15 that bypasses traffic signals or certain exits. The project includes re-engineering of the interchange to handle new traffic configurations.

A May 31 deadline was initially set for the much-anticipated $150 million overhaul of the 6-mile stretch of highway that is heavily used by northern Utah county residents and is the gateway to destination locations such as American Fork Canyon.

That deadline was extended 140 days because of multiple complications that arose along the way, said Utah Department of Transportation spokeswoman Heather Barnum.

An extra 20 days was given to contractor Flatiron Harper Joint Venture because of the unusually wet spring, Barnham said, and another 120 days were tacked on because of complex right-of-way negotiations the traffic agency encountered.

"The project has encountered some unique challenges," she said. "We're working diligently to complete those additional lanes, giving priority to the Main Line."

The "Main Line" is the road-widening project absent adding the side by side commuter lanes. Barnum said the Main Line should be done by early next year and the commuter lanes finished up in the spring.

Barnum said that the daily monetary assessment or what's called liquidated damages is a routine contracting practice for UDOT. Only 8 percent of its construction contracts over the last three years have extended past set deadlines, she added, but the daily assessment of damages helps to ensure agency costs are met. Those daily charges vary depending on the scope of the project.

"It's designed to protect the taxpayer and work financial accountability into a contract like this. It is in everyone's best interest to get projects like these done as soon as possible so people can start benefiting from having an improved transportation system."

Flatiron's operations manager Dale Nelson the state Route 92 overhaul proved to be a big and complex project that developed a lot of issues since its start in 2009.

The actual payment of the liquidated damages will be negotiated at the project's completion, he said, with contractors sitting down with UDOT to revisit what challenges may have cropped up during the rebuild.

"It's not that unusual," he said. "There are situations where there are excusable delays. What the goal has been and continues to be is open the Main Line by the end of the year."

He said such delays can be caused by weather or if the scope of the project has changed.

Barnum said UDOT has posted information about the delays on its web page and reached out to residents via city newsletters to explain what is happening with the road construction project.

"We are so grateful for the patience of the public and the businesses we have been communicating with," she said."We do recognize it is an inconvenience, but we know that people see that the end result really will be a benefit to this region. You hear through their frustration the excitement of what it will be like when it's complete."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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