Mount Rose Interchange project delayed another month
The long-stalled Mount Rose project on Interstate 83 has been delayed another month, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials.
The construction project, initially slated for completion in 2018, is now expected to wrap up May 11. In late 2020, PennDOT announced contractor Cherry Hill Construction would be done by April.
"The schedule is determined by the contractor and their resources," said PennDOT spokesperson Mike Crochunis. "All work required by the contract that is incomplete as of this date remains to be performed."
This work includes reopening both ramps on the north side of Mount Rose Avenue, finalizing the pavement course and markings and installing permanent signs and traffic signals, Crochunis said.
Cherry Hill Construction originally bid $58.3 million for the work.
But the contractor has since incurred $15.6 million in liquidated damages — late fees demanded by the state — after officials said the company failed to meet agreed-upon specifications.
Cherry Hill is a subsidiary of Tutor Perini, which is the second-largest transportation construction company in the United States. The parent company stepped in to manage the Mount Rose project in 2018.
Multiple attempts Wednesday seeking comment from Tutor Perini were unanswered.
But Cherry Hill Construction last year filed a claim against the state Department of Transportation with the state Board of Claims, alleging a breach of contract. PennDOT failed to "take seriously" problems at the work site, the claim alleged.
In its response, PennDOT countered that Cherry Hill is at fault for the delays.
Cherry Hill is seeking $24.2 million in damages and a 598-day extension for the project, which was supposed to be completed in June 2018. But the completion date has continued to backslide.
State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, who has criticized the project, said she intends to demand answers from PennDOT regarding construction and delays in an upcoming budget hearing in April.
My key focus is getting this particular project completed," Phillips-Hill said via email. "Since 2015, there have been over 250 calls for assistance at this interchange. This project is three years late and millions of dollars over budget."
At the upcoming budget hearing, Phillips-Hill said she hopes PennDOT officials will address what they are doing to ensure Cherry Hill Construction and similar vendors that operate with a "change-order scheming" business practice are never awarded another project in the state.
In 2020, Phillips-Hill accused Tutor Perini of "change-order scheming," a practice in which a company goes in on a low bid and later submits additional cost overruns with lengthy project deadlines.
Tutor Perini has been involved in a slew of legal disputes with state and local governments, especially in California. For example, 11 projects throughout the San Francisco Bay area over a 12-year period cost governments $765 million more than officials expected, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2013.
"To say this project has been a nightmare would be an understatement," Phillips-Hill said.
— Reach Tina Locurto at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.