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Contractor facing hefty fines for bridge delays

Russell Hixson
Contractor facing hefty fines for bridge delays

The general contractor on the Walterdale Bridge project in Edmonton, Acciona/Pacer Joint Venture (APJV), will face more than $5 million in fines after late steel will cause a year delay in construction, city officials said.

The city announced last week that the opening date for the new Walterdale Bridge has been pushed back from fall 2015 to fall 2016.

The delays are the result of critical steel parts fabricated overseas being delivered months late. The delay was discovered after the contractor was pressed to submit a revised schedule.

The existing Walterdale Bridge remains in service and will continue carrying traffic downtown until the new bridge opens.

"Our industry has let us down," said Barry Belcourt, City of Edmonton branch manager for roads design and construction.

He explained that the steel pieces were fabricated and constructed by South Korea’s Daewoo International Corp., a company selected by Acciona-Pacer Joint Venture from a list of seven companies preapproved by the City of Edmonton.

"I can’t direct (APJV) what to do, but that is who signed the contract, and that is who we are holding accountable," he said.

Starting in June, the contractor will be forced to pay $10,000 each day for missing milestones. Belcourt said he is anticipating the company will have to pay more than $5 million in late penalties. He explained that the penalties are not to make money, but to offset costs.

Late delivery means more money spent on specialized consulting bridge engineers. City experts also have to spend more time on the project, taking time away from other ones.

"At the end of the day the steel has not made it from South Korea to here and that is on the shoulders of the contractor," he said.

Acciona Infrastructure Canada managing director, Raquel Garcia, said that APJV remains committed to working with the City of Edmonton to complete the Walterdale Bridge Replacement Project.

"The APJV is disappointed that construction is delayed due to issues with the structural steel manufacturer. The APJV has implemented, and will continue to implement, various mitigation strategies to resolve these challenges," said Garcia.

Officials for the contractor were contacted by the Journal of Commerce for further comment, but they declined. According to the city, project costs will still remain within the established $155 million budget.

According to the city, Korean crews had to put all the arch pieces together to ensure they fit well and to survey it during the trial assembly. Officials said the delays were not due to quality issues.

The city as well as the contractor followed quality control programs and have employees in South Korea overseeing the work. The cause of the long fabrication time is due to the complexity of the bridge’s unique design, officials said.

Construction of the new Walterdale Bridge began in January 2013. Certain project milestones, such as the reconfigurations of Queen Elizabeth Park Road and Walterdale Hill, are complete. The updated schedule includes opening the new bridge to traffic in fall 2016 and removal of the existing bridge in spring 2017.

The arches for the new $155 million bridge were originally planned to be put in place late last summer.

The first small shipment of arch steel arrived on site in mid-January. The second was shipped at the end of January and arrived in March. The remaining pieces, including arch rib bases, will be sent this spring.

Once the central portion of the arch is assembled at the north and south lay down areas, it will be floated across the river on barges and placed on each berm. The central portion of the arch will be lifted into place using two heavy lift operations with jacks located on the lift towers.

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