Contractor Sues SEPTA to Get Out of El Reconstruction Project

Wed November 17, 2004 - Northeast Edition

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A contractor wants to quit a major reconstruction project for Philadelphia’s transit agency because, it says, the agency is a micro-manager.

PKF-Mark III filed suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, Oct. 26, seeking release from its $74-million contract to rebuild part of the elevated portion of the Market-Frankford line in West Philadelphia.

“We want out,” said Peter E. Getchell, president of the Bucks County company. “We are just pretty much at the end of our rope in trying to get the work done.”

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is in the midst of a $567-million El makeover in West Philadelphia. PKF-Mark III was given a contract to replace the western end of the El.

PKF-Mark III alleges SEPTA did not make payments to the company in accordance with the contract and “persistently interfered with PKF’s means and methods.” SEPTA continually issued “unjustified stop orders,” and refused to accept work performed in accordance with the contract and industry standards, the lawsuit said.

SEPTA Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. said the agency sought changes to work because the contractor was being unsafe and using low-quality construction materials, including steel beams the agency rejected for poor manufacture. He said the agency would seek to hold PKF-Mark III to its contract.

“When you give your commitment with a bond and a contract, I expect you to live up to it and not go around and whine and try to change it,” Deon said.

The project is already two years behind schedule. It was originally scheduled to be finished in 2006.

Residents and business-owners in the area have expressed frustration about the massive construction zone.

City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, who represents the area, pledged to hold public hearings.

“This is horrible and I don’t know what’s going on,” Blackwell said. “Sounds to me that they’re both probably wrong.”

“This project has been a nightmare, the community has been a hostage, and I sometimes feel like it’s never going to get done,” she said.