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'I'm livid': Lawmakers seek public meeting on overdue, over-budget Mt. Rose/I-83 project

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • The contractor had to fix a portion of the project along Haines road because the curbing elevation didn’t meet the state department of transportation’s standards and specifications.
  • This is the only state project that Cherry Hill Construction is working on currently in the Commonwealth.
Nearby businesses and residents continue to show their frustration with PennDOT and the I-83 Mount Rose Avenue construction project. (Submitted)

The yearslong Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange project is overdue and over budget, and now the Maryland contractor is redoing already completed work because it didn't meet specifications.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Greg Penny said correcting errors is "all part of the process" and "not everybody's perfect."

“You don’t always get it right the first time,” he said.

Some York County lawmakers apparently disagree. 

Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, and Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, have requested a public meeting with Maryland-based Cherry Hill Construction and PennDOT. 

"I truly believe the change orders and additional cost are not based on circumstances beyond the contractor's control," Phillips-Hill said. "Going forward, this company needs to make good on its commitments to the contract that they proposed or they should not be able to bid on any contract in the commonwealth."

She said it was reported at a public transportation meeting that there have been a minimum of 12 project superintendents since the start. 

"I'm livid," Phillips-Hill said. 

Leonard White, Cherry Hill Construction's field office coordinator, could not be reached for comment by phone.

Out with the new: Cherry Hill recently was ordered to redo curbing and paving on Haines Road in Springettsbury Township because the work did not meet PennDOT's specifications, Penny confirmed. 

A state inspector raised questions about work to be done in the area, but Cherry Hill reassured the inspector that it would be done properly, he said.

In the end, “subsequent testing of the pavement" indicated it wasn't up to specifications, Penny added.

"The contractor will be milling a portion of the blacktop to provide a wider band that can be properly paved and compacted," Penny said. 

When asked how many other times the contractor has had to make corrections to the project over the past three years, the spokesman said PennDOT “is not going to get into specifics at this time.”

He said the department "will provide a status update at the end of this construction season.”

As with most of the Mount Rose Avenue construction, curbs, sidewalks and blacktop remains uncompleted at the intersection of Haines Rd. and Camp Betty Washington Rd., Tuesday, July 31, 2018.  John A. Pavoncello

The York Dispatch filed a Right-to-Know Law request Friday, Aug. 3, to obtain a list of all corrections that were made during the course of the project. 

More:Contractor wants more time, money for I-83 Mount Rose project

More:'What a freakin' mess': Mount Rose/I-83 work frustrating motorists

York County lawmakers Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Stan Taylor have requested a public meeting with Maryland-based contractor Cherry Hill Construction and PennDOT concerning delays and over-budget costs with the Mount Rose Avenue project. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

'Big eyesore': Residents and business owners near the project are losing their patience. 

“It’s super frustrating for me because they started the construction on Haines Road over a year ago and then just stopped and haven’t done any work in about 10 months,” Haines Road resident Justin Rudacille said.

The project, he added, is "a big eyesore.”

“I would like an explanation as to why the work was started if they were going to just stop and leave it tore up,” Rudacille said.

PennDOT gave Cherry Hill the go-ahead for the Mount Rose Avenue/I-83 project in April 2015. It was supposed to be done in June of this year.

As with most of the Mount Rose Avenue construction, curbs, sidewalks and blacktop remains uncompleted at the intersection of Haines Rd. and Camp Betty Washington Rd., Tuesday, July 31, 2018.  John A. Pavoncello

PennDOT has said the state bears some responsibility for a slow start to the project, and it gave the contractor an extension of about five months, Penny said.

Cherry Hill should be able to finish by late 2019 or early 2020, he said.

The project’s initial price tag was $58.3 million and now stands at $59.7 million, according to PennDOT.

However, the company now has asked for even more time and money, and the final price tag and completion date are under negotiation, Penny added.

Accountability: A sign outside K.D. Rosengrant Building & Remodeling on Mount Rose Avenue sums up company president Betsy Rosengrant-Stein's assessment of the project.

"Shame on PennDOT for the Mt. Rose Ave. mess!," it reads. 

Rosengrant-Stein said she would like the department to conduct better business, specifically holding the contractor accountable.

York County lawmakers Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Stan Taylor have requested a public meeting with Maryland-based contractor Cherry Hill Construction and PennDOT concerning delays and over-budget costs with the Mount Rose Avenue project. Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

“We’ve been pretty patient for three years," she said. "We’ve already gone through three winters of this.”

There seems to be no action even on good-weather days, Rosengrant-Stein added. 

“I don’t remodel interchanges, but I’d put 150 guys out there, or another shift to at least make it look like they’re working,” she said. “When you drive by and see four or five guys, I have to think, we don't ever get more time and more money for a job.”

Bid winner: The York County work is the only project that Cherry Hill Construction  is working on for PennDOT, Penny said. 

Construction crews are in the process of adding another eastbound lane to the Mount Rose Ave. overpass among other ongoing work on the now overdue and over-budget project, Tuesday, July 31, 2018.  John A. Pavoncello

Six contractors initially bid on the project in January 2015, Penny said. The bids ranged from $58.3 million to $75.9 million, according to a PennDOT statement.

Cherry Hill Construction was the apparent low bidder at $58,338,000. The next bidder was York-County based G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc. at $59,462,517.

Experience: Cherry Hill Construction has done similar work in other states.

The company won an award for its completed $95.68 million Interstate 95/Interstate 895 project in Maryland, and it is currently working on a $98.8 million Interstate-95/SR1 Interchange project in Delaware, according to the company’s website.

— Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note the project began in April 2015, and while PennDOT gave the company an extension, it was for a little more than five months, not a year. Also, PennDOT said this is the only project Cherry Hill Construction is currently doing for the department, but a department spokesman said he's unsure if it's the first project the company has ever done for PennDOT.