102 Avenue Bridge 1 year behind schedule; contractor paying $11K daily penalty
EDMONTON – The bent girders are once again rearing their ugly heads. Wednesday, the city heard the 102 Avenue Bridge project over Groat Road is one year behind schedule.
Three of the girders mysteriously buckled on March 16, which forced the closure of a portion of Groat Road for several weeks as crews worked to stabilize the structure. The incident put construction three months behind schedule.
An investigation into what went wrong found the girders were not properly braced during construction.
On Wednesday, the city’s transportation committee heard that because of the colder temperatures, crews won’t be able to pour the concrete and work over the winter.
A successful concrete pour requires three weeks in a row with temperatures above five degrees Celsius. Therefore, the pour won’t happen until spring 2016.
The contractor has been paying penalties of $11,500 per day since Oct. 2, which was the original completion date. That money goes towards extra transit costs and engineering costs the city is facing because of the bridge delay.
City councillors are concerned many businesses in the area are heading into their second holiday season without people being able to drive over the bridge.
“Can they hang on for another 12 months or eight months?” wonders Bill Butler, the developer of the High Street area.
He says, with the exception of one shop, all the nearby businesses are small, locally-run operations.
“Everyone talks about the contractor’s risk, but they’re still getting paid,” says Butler. “Everyone talks about transportation’s risk, but they still go home and get a full paycheque. But when you talk about the risk to these tenants, they’re going home with no paycheque and digging into their pockets to keep the doors open.”
“I’m being told that the sales are – not across the board – but they’re all down, some as much as 30 to 40 per cent,” says Butler.
The transportation department said Wednesday it will meet with area businesses to work out a plan to help. One thing it’s considering? Some extra marketing or an advertising push to encourage more people into the area.
Councillors also passed a motion to temporarily remove the parking metres on 104 Avenue – from 124 Street to 126 Street – until bridge construction is finished.
Still, Butler would like to see more direct compensation.
“We have made that case that the tenants are all feeling the impact, even believe it or not a tax increase this year, which strikes me as ridiculous. We’re hopeful that the city – upon receipt of some of the penalty monies being paid by the contractor – might consider some dispersement of some of those funds to the small business here that are struggling.”
The city has indicated compensating business owners for lost earnings is not something it’s willing to do.
The revised completion date for the 102 Avenue Bridge is now Sept. 15, 2016.
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