DOT, Contracting, and the Wonders of Road Work

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I’ve been following this story in various areas of this weblog and the news has perhaps spread widely now on the I-84 imbroglio. Edmund Mahony of the Hartford Courant reports:

The transportation department paid the now defunct L.G. DeFelice construction company about $52 million to build the redesigned, 3.5 mile stretch of I-84 in Waterbury and Cheshire. The state paid The Maguire Group, a private consulting engineer, another $6 million to inspect the DeFelice work.

The audit by J.R. Knowles/Hill International concluded that DeFelice did millions of dollars of work incorrectly or not at all, that Maguire failed to inspect the work or ignored incorrect work and that the state paid for the work “without following proper procedures including field verification and signoffs.”

Sounds pretty complicated to me. Nevertheless, the results of incompetence will be felt for years to come and projects that would have been good for the state will probably feel the pain. How to trust any budget then that has gone through any sort of prioritizing. Whose priorities? Against what standards?

Mahony continues:

Although transportation officials have said nothing to indicate that there is any immediate hazard, the Federal Highway Administration is concerned that failures in the highway drainage system may be creating underground washouts that could lead to road collapses.

While placing most of the blame for the problems on the contractors, Rell said the audit also shows a “cultural failure” by the transportation department because it “did not anticipate or expect that deficient work of this magnitude by the contracting and inspection firms could even occur.”

The audit confirms one fact that has been known for months: that the redesigned roadway’s drainage system is a nearly complete failure. Other experts have estimated the state may have to pay anywhere from $20 million to $30 million to correct the drainage failures alone.

In addition to the FBI investigation, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is looking into the project. “This audit reveals outrageous and far-reaching failures at every level in the I-84 expansion project,” he said Friday.

What does that first sentence mean? “Although transportation officials have said nothing to indicate that there is any immediate hazard, the Federal Highway Administration is concerned that failures in the highway drainage system may be creating underground washouts that could lead to road collapses.” Let’s parse this: “Although transportation officials have said nothing to indicate that there is any immediate hazard . . .” The problem with this statement is that it’s written in prepositional status yet doesn’t link to a subject. It should’ve been cut from the paragraph. The paragraph should begin: “The FHA is concerned that failures . . . ” What does it matter that “transportation officials” either confirm, deny, or say nothing about . . . Was there a question?

Thousands of people drive I-84 everyday. Do the “officials” have some newfangled spyglass that can see under ground and into a “complete failure”? What does complete failure mean, by the way? If I build a structure and it’s pronounced a complete failure does this mean it would last a windstorm? Underground washouts. Governor Rell wants to change the culture of the DOT and reform the agency, but how does one reform DOT? I suggest that government hire people who can actually do inspection work themselves. The governor also wants DOT Commissioner Carpenter to “take action against any workers who have performed inadequately on the I-84 project .”

What does “inadequately” mean? Does the audit not answer some of this?

So many holes.


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