May 2, 2013
Tim Dewar, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ojai city officials are confident that a road construction project that has been “cursed” for 25 years will be completed within the next few weeks and within budget.
The extension of Fulton Street, between Pearl Street and Bryant Circle, hit its first snag almost 20 years ago when the city began planning for the project.
“On one hand this project has been cursed for 25 years,” noted Ojai Public Works Director Greg Grant. “There have been obstacles every step through the history of the project, from obtaining right of way, grants, environmental clearances, etc. Taking 20 years to get a project built is extraordinary. And now what should have been a three-month construction project is approaching 10 months.”
For many years, the project was backshelved as funds for road construction projects took a back seat to more pressing needs as the city budget shrunk.
Fast forward to 2011hwen the project gets new life after the city was able to snag a $412,000 transportation grant. Unfortunately for the city the curse didn’t stop there.
The project hit another roadblock when Southern California Edison (SCE) threw an 11th hour curveball calling for changes in the plans to place utility lines underground in the project area. Grant explained Hurricane Sandy even had a hand in delaying the project when SCE crews were pulled from this area to help with the disaster cleanup, delaying the underground work.
The remnants of a railroad depot, last used in 1969, were the next part of the curse to slow construction as crews were forced to remove and dispose of the debris left behind.
Grant said the next obstacle crews had to overcome occurred when early winter rains saturated a portion of the as-yet-unpaved portion, creating a water-soak road base under a portion of the project.
“The project design was reviewed and approved by Caltrans, what appeared to be a straightforward road design,” Grant noted. “ The same design worked well on adjacent Bryant Circle. The concentrated clayey subgrade at the failed pavement area was unfortunate, but they happen occasionally.”
Change orders were approved to dry, replace and recompact the base material around the clay pocket, and to provide additional drainage in the impacted area and the paving work was scheduled.
Jump ahead a few more months, to the asphalt concrete (AC) stage and the curse reappeared.
“The area was proof rolled and accepted by the Geotech consultant after subgrade placement, after base placement, but moved slightly during the heavy construction loads of AC placement which resulted in the thicker AC section,” Grant explained. After consulting with several experts, he added, the city determined that the damaged area was not the contractor’s fault. He said the city will likely approve an additional $10,000 to $20,000 to repair it.
Several other problems will also need to be repaired and Grant said the contractor, J&H Engineering — which has a reputation for quality work — has agreed to do so. These include replacing sections of curb and gutter and concrete planter areas that were not built to design standards, adding additional fill material around some of the sidewalk areas, straightening portions of a chain link fence near the project, replacing portions of a wooden fence damaged during the construction and grinding portions of the AC around handicapped access sidewalk ramps to meet design standards.
A retaining wall that was built off plumb will be accepted by the city because it is structurally sound and the adjacent property owner is opposed to having more work done on that portion.
“So far,” Grant explained, “I believe we have negotiated a fair resolution with the contractor, all problems will be corrected, and the project will be completed well within budget, using no City general funds.”
The total cost of the project so far, according to Grant is expected to be in the area of $358,000.
“It’s important to note that J&H Engineering, was over $50,000 below the second bidder,” Grant stated. “If they hadn’t shown up, we would have started with a base bid of $232,632 and change orders would have accumulated from there, likely cutting our remaining $100,000 contingency in half. Projects always have challenges. Usually there’s minimal interest in the challenges, people just want the project done. This will be done soon! And within the original budget/grant, at no cost to the City.”
City crews worked Monday to install several trees, additional drains and a post and rail fence. Grant expects the rest of the fix to be complete and the road opened sometime within the next two weeks, unless, of course, the curse returns.