Mount Rose interchange deadline missed again; new completion date unclear

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Gene Smith of contractor Tutor Perini directs traffic as signal lights were being calibrated on Mount Rose Avenue at the I-83 interchange Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Completed ramps at the exit are opening. Bill Kalina photo

The contractor of the Mount Rose project on Interstate 83 has once again missed its deadline — and one local lawmaker is planning legislation to prevent a similar scenario in the future.

Maryland-based Cherry Hill Construction was slated to finish the project on Tuesday after years of delays and rising costs. But a list of work remains incomplete, said Dave Thompson, spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation.

"The department has not received an updated schedule from the contractor from their indicated completion date of May 11," Thompson said.

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Mount Rose Avenue/I-83 reallignment

Cherry Hill originally bid $58.3 million for the work, but the cost has now risen to $62.7 million. The project was scheduled to be completed in 2018 and has repeatedly been pushed back.

The contractor has also incurred $23.6 million in liquidated damages, which are late fees demanded by the state, Thompson said.

Cherry Hill still needs to complete surface paving over the entire project, finalize pavement marks, install signage and complete traffic signals, Thompson said.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

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.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, is circulating a legislative memo with plans to introduce a bill that would bulk up the state's vetting of contractors such as Cherry Hill.

Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) presents a citation in commemoration of Austin L. Grove American Legion Post 403's 100th anniversary celebration in Glen Rock, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Under the upcoming legislation, PennDOT would be required to take into account a bidder's history of what she calls “change order scheming."

Currently, PennDOT is required to award contracts to the lowest bidder.

“Essentially, a company comes in, underbids the project and makes up the cost by submitting change order upon change order so that the project ends up costing more than what other bidders submitted,” Phillips-Hill said. “It’s a deceptive practice.”

Phillips-Hill expects to introduce the legislation by the end of the month, she said.

In 2018, state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, also mulled legislation addressing how contractors are chosen. But he never introduced a bill.

Meanwhile, Cherry Hill and PennDOT remain in a legal battle, filed with the state Board of Claims, over who is to blame for the delays.

In December 2019, the contractor filed a claim with the state's quasi-judicial agency handling contract disputes, alleging the state owes it more than $24 million.

It also sought a 598-day extension to the contract's completion date. It was unclear whether the claim is referring to the initial June 2018 deadline.

The company alleged PennDOT consistently breached its contract with the company since the project began, ignoring issues that surfaced along the way.

PennDOT replied, arguing that it abided by the contract and that any delays were the fault of Cherry Hill.

A trial date had not yet been set as of Wednesday, Thompson confirmed.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.