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Cornelius News

Toll lane project in slow lane

Oct. 12. By Dave Vieser. CINTRA, the Spanish based construction company overseeing the I-77 toll lane project, has asked the NCDOT for an extension to their required contract completion date.

“I can confirm that extensions have been submitted and are under consideration at this time, but no decisions have yet been made,” spokeswoman Jen Thompson said in an e-mail to Cornelius Today. She did not say when a decision would be forthcoming.

Per the contract, fines in the form of liquidated damages totaling $10,000 per day will be imposed for each section that is completed after November 1, 2019. The original delivery date was Jan. 7, but work was added to the contract, extending the completion date.

Meanwhile, fines continue to mount against CINTRA subcontractors.

Most recently, the state DOT levied an $800,000 fine against Sugar Creek Construction, an I-77 toll lane subcontractor, after an incident in August during which one of their concrete trucks pulled down utility lines in Huntersville, snarling traffic for hours. This brings the total fines imposed thus far on the project to over $6 million.

During the latest incident on Aug. 27 the utility lines, which were later determined to be cable communication lines, struck three cars. Police immediately closed off the road until the lines could be secured, creating huge traffic jams for over three hours in the middle of the day.

The quality of the construction for the project has been an area of concern as well. Just last year a $3.2 million fine was levied after a dump truck drove into a bridge with its bed up in Charlotte.

Jean Leier, spokeswoman for I-77 Mobility Partners, said they “are working closely with our contractor to determine the cause of the latest incident and how it might be prevented in the future.”

I-77 Mobility Partners is a subsidiary of Spain-based contractor Cintra, which was awarded the contract to finance, build and operate the I-77 toll lanes.

Fines on construction projects are actually structured as liquidated damages, spokeswoman Thompson said.

“Liquidated damages are included in project contracts as an amount that can be charged against payments to a contractor when the contract agreement is breached,” she said.

The amount is then withheld from payment, although the contractor has the right to appeal.