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Lapsed warranty will likely cost DOT millions to fix I-795

Posted January 9, 2009
Updated July 16, 2009

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— At least one state lawmaker says a lack of accountability is to blame for a bad paving job along 18 miles of Interstate 795, which could cost the state millions of dollars to repave.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said Thursday it could cost anywhere from $14 million to $22 million to fix the stretch of road running from Wilson to Goldsboro, which started cracking 16 months after the project was complete.  A report from the Federal Highway Administration partly blames air pockets in two hot-mix asphalt layers for the problems.

"The person responsible should be fired," Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, who sits on the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, said Friday. "Bottom line – if he made a $20 million boo boo, he needs to be terminated, but you can't find out who it is (because no one person is responsible). That's the problem."

Another part of Hunt's concern is that the DOT discovered the problem four months after its 12-month warranty on the $120 million highway expired.

DOT is already paying the contractor, Wilson-based S.T. Wooten, nearly $500,000 to repair a number of large cracks and potholes along the interstate, and officials say it is likely the state will also be responsible for paying the company to repave the rest of the roadway.

Victor Barbour, the DOT's administrator for technical services, which oversees contracts, said the agency didn’t purchase an extended warranty because of the cost increase that would have been associated with the project.

But Hunt believes extended warranties are worth the investment.

"To me, it's a no-brainer, absolutely," he said. "If a private business were doing this, they would not pay the bill until they were sure it was right. Period."

Hunt wants to know why history seems to be repeating itself.

In 2007, the DOT spent about $22 million to repave a 10.6-mile stretch of Interstate 40 in Durham after finding that expansion joints were improperly constructed when new concrete was laid on top of the old during a widening project.

DOT engineers began noticing problems with it before the project was finished, and it hired the same contractor to fix it, because under state law, the lowest qualified bidder must be awarded the contract.

Bruce Dillard, the DOT's inspector general, whose job is to promote accountability and efficiency and minimize fraud, waste and abuse, said Friday his office has no intention of auditing the I-795 project. He declined to comment further as to why.

DOT says it is too premature to say whether the department will revisit its warranty policy.

"I think we'll do an evaluation process and determine what direction we need to take with regard to the warrant," Barbour said.


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  • killerkestrel Jan 13, 2009

    pbjbeach, the reason the bonds don't get used to fix the road is because the warranty has expired. And these asphalt mixes are tested by the NCDOT. But this road has an issue with air pockets, which sounds like a workmanship issue, not material. When I drove down it last year, it appeared that the surface course popped off in some spots, making me think that the layers were not properly bonded together with tack.

  • pbjbeach Jan 12, 2009

    as a general rule of contracting contractors are suppose to be bonded in order to perform ncdot tht contracting in the first place .why is it that every time that there is a failure of some kind particulary when there is major funding envolved it is always the taxpayer that ends up paying for the screw up to be repaired. it looks to me like that the bonding companys would be the one that should have to be the ones to bite the bullet an not the taxpayer every time

  • pbjbeach Jan 12, 2009

    killerkestral :
    the reason for the failing pavement is due to the fact that these asphalt mixtures have been design on purpose in colusion with the contractors for what is know as design obslecense ( or in other word thes pavement structure are being intinally desgin to fail in order to benefit the contarctors in this state so that they get a quicker turn over on the repavement jobs ther by generating more business revenue for them an their colleges thank you

  • pbjbeach Jan 12, 2009

    the ncdot is responsible for the lettingof contractors get away without the enforcing the ncdot state specefications while these construction projects are being built under which the contractor are suppose to be responsible for any bad work perfromed an not for the ncdot/taxpayers to have to continue to eat these millions of dollars loses of taxpayers funding an the federal funding that is envolved in these slopply bulit highway projects thank you

  • killerkestrel Jan 12, 2009

    If you require a longer warranty, then the contractor charges more. This would add tens of millions of dollars to costs. Yes, the DOT is having to pay out of pocket for work that is no longer on warranty, but it is quite possible that it costs less than requiring every contractor to have a 20 year warranty on projects. I've heard the contractors don't have much of a profit margin on these projects anyway.

    Millions of dollars wasted in mistakes sounds like a lot, unless you are doing billions of dollars of business. Think about the thousands of dollars in mistakes when you build a house.

    And one wonders how you find these air pockets using everyday testing. Would it show up in density testing? What caused them? Not enough tack? Paving while pavement wet?

  • workingforthosethatwont Jan 9, 2009

    Somebody's getting rich here and it ain't us. I smell a rat.

  • colliedave Jan 9, 2009

    Isn't there a project engineer assigned to oversee the project? He/she needs to be fired.

  • we-r-just-human Jan 9, 2009

    I don't want to sound rude...but why worry about other states having problems... I pay my taxes in NC and I HATE to see it wasted...

    Do it right the first time and get on with fixing the rest of the mess the NCDOT has created... Clayton Bypass/I40 in the morning/evening... I540 west bound exit to I40, ALL the bottle necks on the roads aroung here and I'm sure the list goes on & on & on & on & on.....

  • twc Jan 9, 2009

    State law requires the "lowest qualified bidder" be selected. For the people who are obviously not intelligent enough to understand that requirement, the key word is "QUALIFIED"!!!!

    That whole CROWD up there needs to be fired!! Don't stop at the DOC!!!

  • woodrowboyd2 Jan 9, 2009

    saveing our money by hireing cheeper contractors is paying off big time
    you get what you pay for