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Rte. 16 Bridge Work Wraps After Bumpy Road

DOT chief engineer: Lessons learned from project's woes.

A few days ago, DOT officials predicted that if weather held, they'd finish up work on the Rte. 16 bridge over Rte. 9 by week's end. 

The weather during the last five days may have been hot, but it was also clear, and by 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, the intersection that allows traffic to switch from Rte. 9 to Rte. 16 and vice versa was clear of barrels and construction equipment. Traffic flowed easily in all directions.

The project's been in progress since 2003, and has seen a couple of setbacks, one of which, said DOT Chief Engineer Frank Tramontozzi, has taught the DOT (MassHighway at the time the project began) a valuable lesson. The original bid, according to the DOT website, was $5,247,987. The contract is valued at $8,844,989.72, according to the site.

The work was originally bid out to Roads Construction in 2003, Tramontozzi said. Work progressed from 2004 till about 2005, then the company went bankrupt. The state called in the surety bond on the contract, and the surety company, XL Surety, took over. That's when the non-financial issues with the work became evident.

"There were a number of problems with this particular job," said Tramontozzi.  Some of the structural elements Roads had ordered were defective, and had to be re-ordered.  Also, to maintain Verizon's cable over the bridge during the work without interrupting service, hundreds of pairs of wires had to be spliced together. "It took an extensive amount of time," Tramontozzi said. He noted that the defective elements would have been discovered by DOT oversight even if Roads had not gone bankrupt, but the development was an added complication for the troubled project.

The situation was unacceptable to everyone involved, he said, including the residents of Wellesley who had to put up with it. But the work is mostly finished, and DOT officials have learned from the headaches. Now, Tramontozzi said, construction companies have to be pre-qualified and vetted before they're allowed to bid on projects. Unproven companies are started off with smaller projects now, and have to work their way up to more complicated, expensive contracts. "Much to the dismay of many contractors," he said.

Editor's note: Check back later for an update on this story.

 

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