Rep. Stan Saylor says I-83/Mt. Rose project 'endangering people every day'

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
  • The I-83 Mount Rose Ave. reconstruction project could be heading toward litigation, Mike Keiser of PennDOT confirmed.
  • The latest superintendent, assigned to the project a few months ago, was a positive move, Keiser said.

State Rep. Stan Saylor wants to change the way Pennsylvania awards large construction contracts in light of the overdue and over-budget Interstate 83/Mount Rose Avenue project, which he said "is endangering people every day."

The work was supposed to be done in June, but state Department of Transportation spokesman Greg Penny has said it's now expected to wrap up in late 2019 or 2020.

However, Jessup-Maryland-based Cherry Hill Construction has requested more time and more money, he said last month. 

Cherry Hill bid $58.3 million on the Mount Rose project, but it is now over-budget at $59.7 million. The price of the project is being negotiated, Penny has said.

The second-lowest bidder was York-County based G.Z. & F.C. Wagman Inc. at $59.5 million.

Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said he wants to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would allow entities to consider awarding a contract to the next bidder if they are within 1 percent of the lowest bidder’s price.

“Let’s be honest,” he said. “If it were (York-based) Kinsley or Wagman on this project, we would not be having this conversation knowing the way they operate. The project would be completed this year.”

Construction continues at Mount Rose Avenue and Interstate 83, where the contractor says they need more time and money to complete the work. Sunday, July 29, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Saylor said his planned bill also would allow the awarding entity to research a contractor’s reputation prior to awarding a contract. Companies known to be over-budget or historically late on projects could be overlooked and an entity can move on to the next low bidder, he said.

York Township Republican Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill — who earlier this month said she was "livid" about how the I-83/Mount Rose Avenue project has been managed — cautioned that changing the bidding process is no easy task.

“Action would be required at both the state and federal levels because the requirement and the funding comes from both places,” she noted.

The Cherry Hill project manager referred questions about the project to parent company Tutor Perini. A message left with Tutor Perini was not immediately returned Tuesday, Aug. 14. 

The rendering of I-83 at Mount Rose Avenue, once construction is completed. (Submitted)

Several issues are to blame for the slow progress on the seemingly never-ending project, according to Mike Keiser, PennDOT's executive for the south-central district.

For example, he said, superintendent turnover has been high; relocation of utilities was slower than expected; and the weather caused delays.

All of those issues were recently discussed in a meeting with Saylor, Phillips-Hill and state Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican whose district includes part of York County.

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

More:EDITORIAL: Better oversight needed on ‘Mt. Rose Ave. mess’

Construction continues at Mount Rose Avenue and Interstate 83, where the contractor says they need more time and money to complete the work. Sunday, July 29, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

While Phillips-Hill has noted Cherry Hill changed superintendents 12 times, Keiser said PennDOT is pleased with the latest superintendent, who was installed a few months ago.

“He seems like he is pressing things on their end to move the project along,” he said. “We like the direction the new super is going.”

Keiser said while the state still wants to work with the contractor, litigation is possible.

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

Cherry Hill took 159 days in the beginning to relocate utilities, but Keiser said he isn’t blaming them or PennDOT. The project received its notice-to-proceed in April 2015, he explained.

There are other “things” that delayed the project, he added, but he would not divulge specifics.

Cherry Hill was recently ordered to redo curbing and paving on Haines Road in Springettsbury Township because its work didn’t meet PennDOT’s specifications, Penny had said.

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

For Saylor, it all comes down to public safety.

“Mount Rose Avenue is very dangerous,” he said. “The project is endangering people every day, either on I-83 or PA-124. Those are major routes.”