Delays Hampering Interstate 80 Projects in Northern Nevada

Sat November 26, 2005 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

RENO, NV (AP) Motorists should be zipping through Reno’s Spaghetti Bowl by now and the afternoon gridlock on U.S. 395 should be a thing of the past. But instead, construction crews hope to have their work completed by March –– nine months later than planned.

And that’s not the only Reno-area project that’s running behind.

In addition to the Spaghetti Bowl, projects facing late penalties include an $8.4-million truck-climbing lane between Keystone Boulevard and the Robb Drive area and construction of a $1.8-million interchange at Interstate 80 in Verdi.

Frehner Construction Co., contractor of the $53-million Spaghetti Bowl project, is now being assessed $10,000 per day after 642 working days to complete the project expired last week. The company planed to appeal to a resolution board and possibly to the courts.

State officials insist Frehner is responsible because the company put too few resources on the $53-million rehabilitation of northern Nevada’s busiest freeway interchange.

Company representatives counter that “atrocious” plans provided by the state are to blame.

“We think we are dealing with really faulty plans,” said James Madsen, general manager of the Las Vegas-based firm.

The Nevada Department of Transportation disputes Frehner’s contention.

“NDOT feels the plans are fine,” Spokesman Scott Magruder said.

To the west, Richard Buenting, president of Reno-based Road and Highway Builders LLC, contractor of the truck-climbing lane project, said the project has gone well and for the most part has been completed on time.

But construction activity on two bridges stalled after a subcontractor, Las Vegas-based Crystal Cascades, went bankrupt, Buenting said.

For the past two weeks and until the project is completed, Buenting’s company is liable for penalties of $4,300 per working day. That could continue past the end of the year.

“It’s costing us a very, very substantial sum,” Buenting said. “The job looks beautiful but we’ve got these two gaping holes in the middle.”

The Verdi interchange is much further behind schedule, NDOT officials said. It was supposed to be finished late last summer or by this June at the latest.

While work is now wrapping up, that project’s contractor –– Carson City-based Paragon Associates Inc. –– had been assessed penalties of $4,600 per working day throughout the summer. Total penalties are about $460,000, or about a quarter of the $1.8-million contract.

Representatives of Paragon Associates did not return calls to the Reno Gazette-Journal, but Magruder called that situation highly unusual.

“You rarely see that. A quarter of the contract amount is going to liquidated damages. That is unheard of,” Magruder said. “This, I think, is simply a case of a contractor biting off more than they could chew.”

Whether construction delays are justified –– or in the case of the truck-climbing project beyond a contractor’s control –– the state must stick to the terms of its contracts for highway projects, Magruder said.