Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Segment of Second St. delayed

City, builder blame each other

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The section of Second Street from Vine to Main streets won't open for at least another seven days, officials said Tuesday, meaning an extension of delays for east-siders stuck with Fifth Street as the main way out of downtown.

        “This will definitely back up the rest of the connections to the interstates as well,” said city transportation director John Deatrick, who said as recently as Friday that the section of the street would be open by the end of August.

        The new opening date is now either Sept. 7 or 8, Mr. Deatrick said Tuesday.

        The missed deadline is a rarity for the $314 million renovation of Fort Washington Way, which is nearly completed.

        But it's not the first time Second Street has missed a target date — the original contracts called for completion by Aug. 15.

        The delay could mean either that the city could be out as much as an extra $15 million, or the company in charge of building the street could be out $15,000 a day for every day the project is unfinished beyond Aug. 15.

        The city and the contractor blame each other for the delay. Maumee-based S.E. Johnson claims other aspects of the project — primarily finishing the flood wall — kept its workers from starting on time and delayed construction throughout.

        The company also said the city made several changes in what it wanted midstream, causing further delay.

        On May 15, S.E. Johnson sent a letter claiming it was due approximately $15 million more because of expenses it incurred trying to make the original Aug. 15 deadline, including $11.1 million for Second Street alone. The original value of the two Second Street contracts was approximately $30 million.

        “We are still putting together our claim, which we view as serious and with merit,” company general counsel Jack Zouhary said. “All of the delays and changes obviously had a domino effect.”

        The city says S.E. Johnson failed “to provide sufficient manpower, equipment, material resources and to achieve adequate levels of production.”

        “There is an exhaustive amount of evidence that Johnson's being substantially behind schedule is due to Johnson's actions and inactions,” assistant city solicitor James Ginocchio wrote in a July 21 letter denying the company's claim.

        The contracts included the daily fine, which as of Tuesday totaled $210,000. That figure could more than double with the ramp from Second to Broadway and Pete Rose Way not expected to open for another two weeks and the highway connections not due until October.

        “We just want to get the project done and worry about the rest later,” Mr. Ginocchio said Tuesday, adding that the city was willing to either negotiate a settlement with S.E. Johnson or pursue the matter in court, if necessary.

        Half of the new Second Street is open, from connections to Interstates 71/75 north, I-75 south, the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, and U.S. 50 east through Elm and Race streets to Vine Street.

        Yet to be completed are the stretch from Vine to Main and the connections with Broadway and Pete Rose Way; I-71 north; Columbia Parkway (U.S. 50 east); and I-471.

        Part of the two-year renovation of Fort Washington Way, the eastbound one-way street is being counted on to handle the local traffic previously routed along the main highway.


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