CTRMA warns contractors to speed up MoPac construction

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has warned contractors responsible for the MoPac Improvement Project that they have 60 days to come up with a plan to complete it.

Originally the project was supposed to be mostly completed by September, but contractors and the Mobility Authority realized that wasn't going to happen at the beginning of this year.

An additional 100 days was granted to contractors, which would set the completion date at December 27, but with the current rate of construction that is not going to happen either.

"I mean, this corridor is the most complex corridor that will ever be built in Central Texas," said Mike Heileginstein, executive director for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

When contractors at CH2M Hill bid only $137 million to complete the project the CTRMA jumped on board.

"We knew the 137 was low. We felt like it was marginal from a profit standpoint, but they insisted they could get it done. In public they said, 'We can make this work,'" said Heileginstein.

Since CH2M Hill started rolling on the project, they have hit roadblock after roadblock.

"They've submitted claims on things like the excavation of the rock and that being extremely hard, and there are provisions in the contract that we are willing to entertain that would address unexpected circumstances, like extremely hard rock that couldn't have been foreseen, water line that may have developed that was not conducive to the schedule, utilities that were undiscovered that we didn't know would be there," Heileginstein said.

After months of extensions, the Mobility Authority's patience has run out.

"At this point, we're disappointed in the progress of course and the lack of a verifiable schedule, so we've got to get their attention. I think we've done that," said Heileginstein.

They did that by sending CH2M a "Notice of Default." That gives CH2M 60 days to rev up their progress or else the mobility authority will find new contractors.

"We're saying if you can't correct this we need to move on," Heileginstein said. 

CH2M sent us this statement regarding the notice of default:

"Today's broadside by CTRMA is unfortunate and only undermines progress being made on the MoPac project. While we were notified of CTRMA's actions through the media, CH2m remains committed to completing the project in a timely manner that benefits commuters and taxpayers, regardless of political agendas."

CH2M Hill faced legal troubles even before signing onto the MoPac Improvement Project.

At one time the US Department of Justice fined the company for allowing overtime fraud. The company was also sued by the City of Los Angeles for construction defects on a runway project, but the Mobility Authority says those claims didn't make them second guess their decision.

"I'm not sure if we knew about that or not because we're focused on the transportation sector they are involved in. We had no reason to deny their low bid," said Heileginstein.

Looking in the rearview mirror, the CTRMA is realizing cheaper may not always be better.

"Knowing what I know now, I wish that we had vetted this perhaps a little bit better, but what we knew at the time, at the award of the contrac,t we couldn't have done or would not have done anything different," said Heileginstein.

The Mobility Authority has already fined CH2M more than $1 million in damages related to unauthorized lane closures. CH2M could be fined up to $20 million in additional damages for failing to complete the project on time.