Extra work over tough terrain said to be reason for parkway cost overrun
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Dec 19, 2011 | 3676 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The intersection of Henry Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway is seen Dec. 9. The latest completed section of the parkway will cost the state $11.5 million rather than the $9.4 million originally projected. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
The intersection of Henry Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway is seen Dec. 9. The latest completed section of the parkway will cost the state $11.5 million rather than the $9.4 million originally projected. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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Unusually rugged terrain is being cited as the reason why the latest completed phase of Veterans Memorial Parkway will cost the state $2.1 million more than initial estimates indicated.

A contract granted to APAC Mid-South, the company that managed construction of the parkway, originally stated the project would cost $9.4 million. But costs mounted to $11.5 as additional work was needed to address issues that came up during construction, said Rebecca Leigh White, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Transportation.

One such issue required additional work at a culvert at the south end of the project. At that site, contractors had to move earth around the road bed after it was already constructed, White said. Addressing the complication also led contractors to buy more materials, including asphalt and erosion-prevention materials, she said.

The overage amounted to a 22 percent increase in the cost of the project. That’s significantly more than overages for most of the department’s projects, but not surprising given the complicated nature of constructing the parkway, said Tony Harris, a department spokesman.

The parkway was built through some of the roughest terrain the department has ever worked on, Harris said. And when working on and through hilly surfaces, contractors are more likely to encounter costly complications like the one at the south end of the parkway, he added.

“Twenty-two percent sounds like a lot, but for an overrun on a project of that scope and that size, I don’t think is unusual,” Harris said.

Between 2008 and 2010, the department completed 310 projects, many of them resurfacing jobs, and in 52 percent of those projects, the actual cost was at or below the estimated price.

Of the 48 percent of jobs that came in over budget, the total overages amounted to $71,000 — two-tenths of a percent over the estimated cost, Harris said.

Harris noted that most of those projects were repaving projects, which tend to have very low overages because workers don’t have to create a road bed.

The latest phase of the parkway was opened to the public Jan. 19, but the payment process is ongoing. As late as last week, APAC was formally requesting payment for the project, in keeping with common legal practice.

It takes months to close out road projects. Even after a road is drivable, contractors often have a list of items that have to be checked off, called a “punch list,” before a project can be approved. APAC completed the list for the parkway in July. A month later, the department made the last of several payments to APAC, bringing the total paid to the company to date up to $11.5 million, White said.

In the 11 months that have passed since the road was completed, McClellan has been exposed to thousands of motorists. Robin Scott, executive director of the McClellan Development Authority, said as many as 4,000 cars pass through the old fort on the parkway each day.

“The more that we can let the population here know what is out here and the potential of it, that helps to build advocacy in the community,” Scott said.

Eventually the parkway will connect Interstate 20 to U.S. 431 North. It will allow motorists to drive from the interstate to the former fort in 15 minutes, making development there easier to pitch to companies, officials have said.

“We are really looking forward to the opening of the rest of the parkway,” Scott said.

Currently, contractors are working on the early phases of road construction from Iron Mountain Road to Alabama 21, said Steve Haynes, a pre-construction engineer for the Department of Transportation. The next phase, “base and pave,” or laying the asphalt, could begin in the summer, he said.

“It all depends on the phase that is under construction right now,” Haynes said. “Just as soon as we see the project progressing like it should be, then we’ll finalize the base and pave.”

Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.
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