A construction project that has reduced a busy road near the Puyallup’s South Hill Mall from four to two lanes won’t be finished until October — six weeks behind schedule — after the city fired its contractor.
Work has been stalled for weeks, creating traffic jams and making access to businesses along the road difficult, while the city seeks a new contractor to finish the job.
Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins said Thursday he has received many calls from citizens about the project’s halt.
“They asked me what in the world is happening up there,” he said.
The construction stoppage began March 25 on the street, which borders South Hill Mall and Costco, after the city terminated its road reconstruction contract with Conway Construction Co. of Ridgefield. Conway won the project last summer with a bid of $3.86 million.
The road being rebuilt stretches from 11th Street SW to 17th Street SW. The original contract called for replacement and expansion of the busy roadway surface and sidewalk with pervious concrete panels, expansion of turn lanes and installation of new traffic signals.
The city has rebid the remainder of the contract with an eye to resuming construction early next month.
Meanwhile, Conway has sued the city, claiming it failed to show good cause for ending the contract and accusing the municipality of not allowing it sufficient time to address the city’s complaints.
The city claimed Conway was not performing all of its required work to specifications, failed to install proper traffic control signage and created unsafe conditions at the work site. Despite written notice to cure those problems, the city said, Conway failed to do so by the deadline the city had set.
Conway, in a suit filed this week in Pierce County Superior Court, claimed it made diligent efforts to remedy what the city saw as problems, but the city refused to meet with the contractor. The company also claimed some of the problems were not its fault but rather the fault of utility companies that had performed work in conjunction with the road project.
Conway asked the court to declare it and its bonding company are not responsible for the extra cost of completing the project.
Puyallup is preparing to award the contract to complete the 39th Avenue SW project to Olson Brothers Excavating Inc. Because of escalating construction costs since the project was originally bid last year, the city expects the completion contract will be more expensive than the unfinished part of the original contract.
An engineering firm had estimated the cost of completing the project would be $2.13 million. The winning bid from Olson was $2.47 million.
The city said it hopes to award the contract to Olson by next month and that the majority of the project will be complete by October with only some signalization work remaining then.
Hopkins said he asked the city attorney “some very direct questions” about why the contract was terminated.
“This is something that we don't want to do lightly,” he said. “But it’s something we leave to the best judgment of our professional staff.”
John Gillie: 253-597-8663