Two weeks before deadline, lawmaker says it would be 'a miracle' if Mount Rose/I-83 project wraps by then

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Traffic moves toward York City on Mount Rose Avenue as construction on the Interstate 83/Mount Rose Avenue project continues Thursday, April 29, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Just two weeks before the completion deadline, the contractor behind the delayed Interstate 83/Mount Rose Avenue project is seeking approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for several key features needed to wrap up the job.

However, PennDOT contends the final details of the project were already approved when the contract was signed six years ago.

Mount Rose Avenue, east at top, at the I-83 interchange in Springettsbury Township, Saturday, March 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

PennDOT officials have said the project will be completed by May 11, but officials with Cherry Hill Construction said they can "deliver the project in 90 days" after approval for a barrier installation and paving is granted, according to a statement provided by parent-company Tutor Perini.

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"Cherry Hill Construction has submitted its 4th revision of pavement proposed finish grades for I-83, a process that began in October 2020," the statement reads. "To date, grades have still not been approved by PennDOT to allow CHC to complete the barrier wall installation and place the wearing course on I-83."

In April, PennDOT officials and Cherry Hill Construction met to review the pavement grades in order to expedite the approval process.

Construction continues on Mount Rose Avenue at the Mount Rose Avenue interchange project at Interstate 83 Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

A new package was submitted to PennDOT on April 3, but that submittal is still under review, according to Tutor Perini officials.

On Wednesday, PennDOT spokesperson Alexis Campbell said the final roadway grades were given to the contractor at the time of bidding.

"The contractor does not need any additional 'approval' from PennDOT before it can proceed with doing so," she said via email. "The contractor needs to complete the remaining work on the project."

Since the start of construction at Mount Rose Avenue, several local York County politicians have spoken out about the project — including state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

"I'm not a civil engineer, but I drive up and down that road every day," Phillips-Hill said Wednesday. "And when I look at the work that needs to be done, I don't see a May 11, 2021, finish date plausible."

A northbound onramp to I-83  Mount Rose Avenue as construction on the Interstate 83/Mount Rose Avenue project continues Thursday, April 29, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Last week, Phillips-Hill questioned state Secretary of Transportation Yassmin Gramian on new updates to the long-stalled project. 

Gramian asserted the project would be completed May 11 and did not mention that work still needed approval from PennDOT, Phillips-Hill said. 

"In less than two weeks, that project would be finished," Phillips-Hill said. "I would find that a miracle."

In late 2020, PennDOT announced contractor Cherry Hill Construction would be done by April — before again extending the date one month out.

Cherry Hill Construction originally bid $58.3 million for the project. Work began in April 2015, and the project was initially slated to wrap June 2018. 

Since then, the contractor has incurred $15.6 million in liquidated damages — late fees demanded by the state — after PennDOT officials said the company failed to meet agreed-upon specifications. 

Project costs surpassed $60 million in 2020.

Traffic moves along Mount Rose Avenue at the Interstate 83 interchange Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The road construction project is expected to be finished two years late. Bill Kalina photo

Cherry Hill Construction has rejected any assertion the company owes any amount in liquidated damages and 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. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.