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Posts from the ‘Antelope Valley Project’ Category


Here’s the Antelope Valley deal

Antelope Valley channel in 2010.

If you’re interested in reading the actual document that all the contractors and subcontractors involved in the Antelope Valley bridge problems agreed to, here it is: Agreement in Principle AV Bridge Spalling w Constructors Inc Signature.

The mayor announced this agreement laying out how the $250,000 worth of repairs to bridges will be paid for. Beutler ordered the trails under N, O, P and Q streets closed in January after an 18-inch-long piece of the bridge fell off the bottom of the O Street bridge, and cracks were found in the bottom of other bridges.

All the contractors and subcontractors agreed pay for the repairs and not sue each other. The city’s New York-based consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, designed and inspected all but one of the Antelope Valley bridges.


Mayor says no public money will be used to fix Antelope Valley bridges

Antelope Valley channel in 2010.

Mayor Chris Beutler and the Joint Antelope Valley Authority announced Monday that seven bridges in the Antelope Valley Project area will be repaired at no cost to taxpayers.

An agreement was reached last week with project consultants and contractors to repair areas of cracking concrete surface material on the bottoms of the bridges. The agreement includes the assignment of financial responsibility. Repair work will begin this week and is expected to be completed in mid-November.

“The consultants and contractors took total financial responsibility, and the JAVA partners were even reimbursed $30,000 to defray expenses related to the repairs,” Beutler said in a press release. “We did exactly what the public asked of us: we insisted on accountability and held the taxpayer harmless. … I want to thank the consultants and contractors for stepping up and helping find a solution.”

The primary consultants and contractors are Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas, Inc.; Hawkins Construction Company; Constructors Inc.; United Contractors Inc.; and Watts Electric Company.

The bridges opened to traffic between July 2007 and October 2009. Defects were discovered by city staff late last year and trails under the bridges were closed Jan. 4 after an 18-inch piece of concrete fell from the O Street bridge. The trails were reopened Jan. 28 after temporary bridge repairs.

The mayor thanked the Federal Highway Administration and the Nebraska Department of Roads for their work on the issue. The NDOR’s independent evaluation concluded the problems were caused by several factors, including the absence of required drainage in electrical conduits, poor workmanship and poor inspections. The NDOR also found a problem with roadway expansion joints which will be corrected by the city. The NDOR report also covered the extent of the damage and proposed solutions. The estimated cost of the repairs is about $250,000.

“In the course of a project as large as Antelope Valley, it is not unusual to have aspects that don’t work as planned,” Beutler said. “In this case, a problem was identified, project leadership demanded accountability on behalf of taxpayers, and good corporate citizens stepped in to fix the problems. It is a successful conclusion to a difficult challenge.”

The repair plans were approved by federal and state officials in August. Repair work will begin on the Military Road Bridge and will proceed south to the “Y”, Vine, “P”, “Q”, “O” and “N” street bridges. Temporary trail closures will be necessary.


What’s ailing Antelope Valley bridges?

A state investigation into problems with the new Antelope Valley Project bridges found poor workmanship and inspection of the bridges and called into question whether they would last 75 years, as intended.

Regarding the fact that pieces of concrete have broken away and even fallen from the bottom of the bridges, the authors of an state report into the problems wrote, “This shouldn’t have made it to the walk-through inspection, let alone through it and the work accepted under normal contract/construction procedures.”

The bridges are brand new; they just opened in the past few years as part of the city’s largest public works project to date.

“In our opinion the structural integrity of the bridge is not impacted due to above mentioned findings, but the service life for the next 75 years is definitely impacted,” the report said.

While a team of inspectors determined the structural integrity of the bridges is not compromised by the problems, they said if the bridges aren’t repaired the life of the structures could be “significantly reduced.”

The bridges are part of a $246 million downtown project designed to control flooding, improve transportation near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and revitalize core neighborhoods.

The report made it clear that problems plague more than the four Antelope Valley bridges previously cited by this blog; they also extend to the three additional Antelope Valley bridges, on Vine, Military and Y streets.

The city and Joint Antelope Valley Authority (a board overseeing the project) were told to respond to the inspectors’ findings within 60 days.

The most serious problem is pieces of the bridges that have broken off the underside: A piece of concrete about 18 inches in diameter fell off the bottom of the O Street bridge in January, prompting the city to close Antelope Valley trails from N to Q street due to safety concerns and setting in motion an investigation of the bridges by the state.

The Federal Highway Administration contacted the state to determine the “level of risk and exposure to both agencies” as a result of Mayor Chris Beutler’s decision to go public about the bridge problem. The city, state and feds then got together and decided the state Department of Roads would lead an independent investigation into the cause of the concrete breakup.

Portions under the bridges where the concrete was breaking away were removed so the trails could be reopened in late January. However, the DOR investigation was only beginning.

Among the problems detailed in the final Department of Roads report:

• “Contamination” on the underside of the bridges inspected – including nails, wire and other debris hanging or embedded in the bottom of the bridges.

• Marks on the bottom of the bridges from the teeth of heavy equipment used to move the bridges – some of which were built on the ground and then moved over the channel. One bridge had “significant breaking away of the concrete along the bottom edge for 15 to 20 feet.”

• Numerous areas where the concrete separated along the bottom edges of the decks on nearly all the bridges from N to Q streets. Inspectors said the rebar and conduit was exposed at nearly all of those areas and the coupling for the conduit was visible.

• Other delaminated areas away from the edge of the deck – the coarse aggregate fractured. Small to large areas of poor consolidation of the concrete.

• In some areas, exposed rebar was painted right over.

• On the bridge piers, white material has “oozed out of cracks beginning at the top of the piers” for two to four feet in some cases.

• On top of the bridges, there were grout stains “all over the place left on the sidewalk.”

• At least one or more expansion joints already failed on both sides of one bridge, the report said, and there was an obvious dip in the road by the concrete rail on the O Street bridge.

• No electrical conduit drainage was installed even though it was supposed to be.

• Abnormal amounts of water were found inside the electrical conduits, indicating water infiltrated during construction or seeped into the broken seal around the light fixture.

“The city of Lincoln needs to review all upcoming projects to ensure that these problems with the conduit are not repeated again,” the report said.

• In all the areas where the underside of bridges was breaking away, it was underneath the electrical conduit and near conduit couplings.

In one part of the report, the authors were so adamant they used an exclamation mark to say, “Normal practice is not to let the popcorn holes go! (poor workmanship and poor inspection).”

The report says a combination of poorly vibrated/consolidated concrete and placing the electrical conduit very near the edge of the bridge deck without proper drainage – combined with backhoe impact and the method of construction – contributed to the breaking off of the concrete. The authors recommended the bridge be tested for the next couple years with infrared thermography and impact echo testing.

The authors recommended that:

• The surface be finished according to specifications.

• Additional sounding of the underside of bridges be done to determine if there are additional areas where concrete should be removed and repaired.

• Patch, repair and re-stain the bridge deck where the concrete was stained over exposed rebar and contaminated concrete.

• Re-install material in the roadway expansion joints at approach slabs.

• Determine the magnitude of water ponding on the P Street bridge deck by the concrete railing and the impact on traffic, particularly when it’s icy, and determine whether it can be corrected cost-effectively.

The bridges were designed and inspected by Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world’s largest transportation engineering companies, based out of New York. The company was hired to manage both design and construction – an construction arrangement that has been criticized because it is easier to cover up design flaws.

After a piece of the O Street bridge fell, the city hired PB to inspect the undersides of the bridges, according to the DOR report.


Antelope Valley: What they promised vs. what we got

I remember the first day I was introduced to people at city hall in 2004, I was pulled into a mayoral aide’s office and shown a bunch of maps on the wall of this thing called the Antelope Valley Project.

The aide was so excited about the project and tried to explain the gargantuan thing to me. It went right over my head. Antelope What? But over the years I became fascinated with the project — the largest public works project ever embarked upon in Lincoln.

And one day, I decided to see how well the organizers had lived up to their promises, as the project was coming together. It appeared nobody at the paper had ever really looked at whether the project was over budget, under budget or on budget.

We probably should have done so much sooner, because I discovered the project was costing much more than proponents and city officials had told people it would in the 1990s. And when I would ask around city hall about whether it was “on budget,” people looked at me like I was crazy. There really wasn’t a set-in-stone budget. Oh, sure, every year the City Council approved a certain amount of spending as part of the city’s entire budget and capital budget — but that little sliver of spending was often overlooked and almost never discussed at budget time.

This Sunday, the Journal Star did a nice update on Antelope Valley spending. I would have gone a step farther and compared what Antelope Valley promoters promised to what actually happened.

Let’s do that here.

• We were told Lincoln would only have to kick in about $35 million in local dollars. Lincoln has contributed $91 million (I’m including $14 million in Railroad Transportation Safety District dollars), with the city pouring water, wastewater, wheel tax and general funds in recent years to pay the bills. The city even borrowed against future keno revenue. The city diverted so much wheel tax revenue into the project that it could only afford to resurface one nine-block stretch arterial roadway between 2004 and 2008. Even more wheel taxes have gone into the project since 2008.

• Depending upon whether you consider NRD money local, the Lower Platte Natural Resources District (you pay a tax to fund them) kicked in $24 million, bringing the total “local” figure even higher, to $115 million.

• We were told the project would cost a total of $175 million (with a little footnote that said “in 1999 dollars”), and $225 million if we did a second phase. It will actually cost $246 million when it’s done, and Mayor Chris Beutler decreed after my 2008 story came out that there would be no phase two.

When I looked into the project in 2008, I was literally handed boxes and boxes of invoices and receipts to pour over in an office of an engineering firm, Olsson Associates (where the former Antelope Valley coordinator actually had an office). Of all the bills, I was most surprised to see that the city had paid Lincoln attorney Kent Seacrest — who had lobbied hard for the project — more than $2 million. He charged the city the highest rate of any subcontractor, at $280 an hour, for “guiding the project” and “gathering public input” — even guiding bus tours of the project.

The other bill that most caught my eye was $250,000 that Lincoln consultant Rick Wallace had earned for being a “community liaison” to nearby neighborhoods and minorities. His billings showed he spent much of his time working on getting an assisted living center that caters to Asians built near Antelope Valley. But after years of work, they had not even settled on a location.

I recently asked the city’s new Antelope Valley coordinator about the status of those two contracts. I learned that after that 2008 story came out, Seacrest’s law firm earned another roughly $90,000 the following year before asking to withdraw from representing the Joint Antelope Valley Authority because “the planning activities they were involved with were fundamentally complete.”

As for Wallace, he earned another $14,000, even though the Asian Center never did get off the ground.

“Unfortunately, the primary conduit for this project is no longer in Lincoln: she left the city to care for her own elderly family members and the project did not go forward,” Antelope Valley coordinator Kris Humphrey said in an email.

All of which makes you wonder how well the city will do with an even bigger public works project, a $340 million whopper of an arena development, it is set to break ground on next month.


City: Wheel taxes won’t go to Antelope Valley anymore

A few years ago, I followed the money flowing into the Antelope Valley Creek to create Lincoln’s Antelope Valley Project, and was surprised to see how much wheel tax revenue was being diverted to the massive public works spectacle in downtown Lincoln.

That was never part of the original plan, but it appeared as though the city was looking everywhere it could for funds to pay for the $246 million project — whose original price tag was advertised at $175 million (although there was a tiny footnote that said * in 1999 dollars).

Local taxpayers were told they’d only have to kick in about $35 million for the project — but by 2008 we’d already spent $68 million. The city got more federal money than expected, but less state money than projected.

And so they turned to the so-called wheel tax and since 1995 the city has spent $28.6 million in wheel tax dollars on Antelope Valley, according to figures recently compiled by the city. I believe that’s part of the reason Lincoln’s roads have deteriorated quickly in recent years — that money could have toward maintaining roads, but instead it was used to build massive new roads in Antelope Valley.

However, the city employee who pulled those figures together for me added, “No other wheel tax dollars will be spent on the AV project.” I’d say that’s probably because Mayor Chris Beutler is instituting a wheel tax increase, and the last time the city increased the tax, city officials reneged on promises to use the money to widen Old Cheney Road from 70th to 84th streets, 56th Street from Old Cheney Road to Pine Lake Road and Pine Lake from 56th to Nebraska 2.

Guess what year the wheel tax was increased? 1995. Guess where $28 million in wheel tax dollars have gone since 1995? Antelope Valley.

I haven’t heard any specific promises being made about how the additional wheel tax money will be used this time around. Maybe somebody learned a lesson about making promises at city hall.


Antelope Valley bridges still not repaired

An Antelope Valley bridge.

Four Antelope Valley bridges that are cracking and spalling still have not been repaired by the city since the damage was reported in January. But soon they will be.

Kris Humphrey, the public works employee who has overseen the Antelope Valley Project in recent years, said the city recently received approval from the state Department of Roads to issue contractors a “notice to proceed” with repair work, which is expected to cost between $250,000 and $270,000. (Talk about bureaucracy, huh?) Those notices went out Friday and then the city will work with contractors “to develop the specific schedule for the repairs,” Humphrey said.

The Antelope Valley bridges spanning O, P, Q and N streets have evidence of spalling — concrete cracking and falling away — even though the oldest of them just opened in July 2007. The $246 million Antelope Valley Project was designed to control flooding, revitalize older neighborhoods and improve transportation in the heart of Lincoln, along Antelope Creek. The project includes six miles of roads, two miles of creek channel improvements, 12 street bridges, three rail bridges and three pedestrian bridges.

But this year the already-over-budget Antelope Valley Project was tarnished when the city had to close its bike trails after a piece of concrete fell from the O Street bridge. The trails were later reopened.

And now, eight months later, it’s still not clear who’s responsible. When asked who will pay for the repairs, Humphrey said, “we are still under discussion and our intention is to do all in our power to ensure that the contractors and consultants responsible pay for the cost of repairing the bridges.”

It’s not easy to determine, since the bridges were designed, built and inspected by a myriad of consultants and subconsultants. As Humphrey said, “There is not a clear cut division of responsibility between the consultant and contractor.”

Hawkins Construction Co. was the primary contractor on two of the bridges and United Contractors, Inc. and Park Construction were the prime contractors on the other two bridges.

The company in charge of both design and engineering for all of the bridges was Parsons Brinckerhoff of New York — one of the world’s largest transportation engineering companies. PB’s design subcontractors were engineering firm Olsson Associates, Erickson Sullivan (which did aesthetics like lights) and HWS Consulting. PB’s construction subcontractors were Olsson Associates, The Schemmer Associates and HWS.


Antelope Valley has seen high water too

Have you walked or biked through the $240 million Antelope Valley Project lately? If you have, you probably saw signs that water running through the channel has been pretty high lately.

As I rode bike under one of the bridges recently, I was surprised to see seaweed and other vegetation wrapped around the railing along the side of the path — indicating the water had been so high it was covering the bike path and then some. As you ride farther north, you can also see how high the water has been in the channel from the flattened vegetation.

I asked Antelope Valley project coordinator Kris Humphrey how high the water has been during this stormy summer, and she said from what she could ascertain, the Antelope Valley has handled a 10-year rain event — which is a storm that has a 10 percent chance of happening annually. Not that big of a storm, really, considering the project was designed to handle 100-year flooding, I believe.

The channel must get pretty full for a 100-year or 500-year flood.

Vegetation got caught up on a railing in the Antelope Valley Project, showing how high the water has gotten in recent stormy weeks.


Beutler took thousands in donations from Antelope Valley contractors

After learning about the cracking or spalling that’s happening on four brand-spanking-new Antelope Valley bridges in downtown Lincoln, I took a look at which companies built them, and which of those contributed to Mayor Chris Beutler’s campaign war chest since he took office.
No surprise, three of the companies have given thousands to Beutler since 2007.
Of course, many of the construction, design and engineering companies that have worked on big Lincoln projects give money to politicians. Many of the companies now doing arena work have given thousands of dollars to Beutler (and a few other local politicians) in recent years.
The city has not yet determined what is causing the spalling on four Antelope Valley bridges– which recently caused a chunk of concrete to fall off the O Street bridge, so we don’t have a person or company to point our finger at.
But as an aside, here are Antelope Valley contractors who gave money to Beutler in recent years (this doesn’t count donations from individuals who work for the companies):
• Hawkins Construction Co. — the primary contractor for two of the bridges (with multiple subcontractors) — has donated $7,000 to Beutler.
• PB Americas — the company in charge of both design and engineering for all of the bridges — has donated $6,500 to Beutler.
• HWS — one of PB’s design subcontractors — donated $4,000 to Beutler.


All four Antelope Valley bridges have cracks

It turns out the problems with brand new Antelope Valley bridges are more serious than have been portrayed by the city up to now.
A city document indicates all four of the Antelope Valley bridges — spanning O, P, Q and N streets — have evidence of spalling or concrete cracking and falling away.
All of those bridges are new — the oldest one opened in July 2007.
Mayor Chris Beutler went public Thursday with the news that the city had to close bike trails through the Antelope Valley Project area after a piece of concrete fell from the O Street bridge. However, the problem extends beyond just one bridge.
The public works employee who oversees the Antelope Valley Project, Kris Humphrey, said the bridges’ construction and inspection was all done by consultants, although after construction is finished, city employees do a final check. She said final inspections were done for water, wastewater and storm facilities, along with traffic signals and paving.
She also confirmed that the city has had some trouble with Antelope Valley’s pedestrian lights getting water in them. After some of the lights were vandalized, workers discovered water in them and other lights, either from natural condensation in pipes or water getting into them during construction.
Mayor Beutler has said the city will not be paying for the repairs, so who will? According to city documents, Hawkins Construction Co. was the primary contractor for two of the bridges (with multiple subcontractors) and United Contractors, Inc. and Park Construction were the prime contractors on the other two bridges.
The company in charge of both design and engineering for all of the bridges was Parsons Brinckerhoff of New York — one of the world’s largest transportation engineering companies. PB’s design subcontractors were engineering firm Olsson Associates, Erickson Sullivan (which did aesthetics like lights) and HWS Consulting.
PB’s construction subcontractors were Olsson Associates, The Schemmer Associates and HWS.
But Humphrey said it’s too soon to know who is responsible for the cracks under the bridges.
“This is not a black and white issue as there are many firms involved with the design and construction,” she said.

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