Seward Highway project nearing completion amid problems

Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2001

SEWARD (AP) -- Homer contractor Larry Herndon was pleased when his company won the $14.6 million bid for the Seward Highway Mile 8 to 18 road project.

Now as the project enters its final phase, Herndon is scrambling to pay his bills, and his firm has filed a claim against the Department of Transportation.

Later this month, representatives from Herndon and Thompson Construction and DOT officials will begin negotiating to sort out the mess.

The construction firm is trying to collect money it believes it is still owed for work done last summer. Change orders from the state caused project costs to soar, Herndon said. It's still unclear how much the changes cost.

''We're in the process of figuring that out,'' Herndon said.

Despite the problems, both sides said they are confident the project will be completed as scheduled. Remaining tasks include the second layer of paving and finish work such as striping, signage and hydroseeding of ditches.

Before wrapping up work last fall, the company finished most of the drilling and excavation work, in addition to laying down about two-thirds of the first layer of asphalt.

''We're going to finish it, even though we're just about broke,'' Herndon said.

Initially the company expected to move 700,000 cubic meters of excavated rock but ended up moving 825,000 cubic meters. The slopes up through the canyon also wouldn't hold up during the excavation work so the company had to excavate further than expected.

With 20 percent of the work remaining, Herndon said the state has already paid his company $1 million above the original bid of $14.6 million.

The construction company's performance bond guarantees completion of the project, said Gordon Keith, director of construction and operations for DOT Central Region. If all else fails, DOT will call on the bonding company to fulfill the contract terms, he said.

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