Construction to widen Independence Boulevard has halted as the state and general contractor have apparently come to an impasse over pay and other terms of the contract, the general contractor and the N.C. Department of Transportation have confirmed.
Michigan-based DeVere Construction Co. Inc., which has a Raleigh office, stopped work last week on four N.C. DOT projects across the state, including the most recent freeway conversion project on Independence Boulevard, said Jordan-Ashley Baker, a spokeswoman for N.C. DOT.
DeVere “has demobilized its forces from a number of NCDOT Projects pending resolution of sizeable claims and the release of substantial contract balances currently withheld by the North Carolina Department of Transportation,” Richard Crittenden, DeVere’s president, said in a written statement Thursday.
The DOT, meanwhile, notified officials at DeVere Feb. 8 that the company is in default of the contract, Baker said.
It’s unclear what specifically triggered the dispute and how much money is at stake.
Crittended declined to say how much DeVere contends it is owed because he said the matter would likely end up in court.
The DOT said DeVere Construction must do the required work “under the schedule specified in its contract with the department. And there can be financial consequences if the company fails to meet its contracted obligations.”
If the contractor is not back on the job by Monday, N.C. DOT plans to require DeVere’s bonding company, Liberty Mutual, to arrange for completion of the project, Baker’s email said.
Payment and performance bonds were required to protect N.C. DOT, subcontractors and suppliers, Baker said. A breach of contract would allow the state to invoke a performance bond and require the bonding company to complete the project, at no additional cost, Baker said. There would likely be no extension of the project’s timeline, Baker said.
DeVere started construction to widen Independence in April 2013 and is expected to complete the project by October 2016, Baker said. Finishes such as landscaping and tree replacement work is scheduled to be completed by April 2017.
Converting Independence to a freeway between uptown and Interstate 485 has been a slow project, now more than 26 years old.
That conversion is transforming the corridor, removing traffic signals along with older commercial properties from an era of slower-moving travel along this popular east-west thoroughfare.
But limited access during construction has caused many businesses to suffer or fail over the years.
“This has just been a debacle with the way the area looks,” said Therese Bohn, chair of the Eastland Area Strategies Team. “The businesses along the Independence corridor are hurting quite a bit. We were seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and now we don’t know how long the delay will be.”
DeVere Construction’s other projects for DOT include the recently opened Rolesville Bypass in Wake County and other road and bridge projects in Western North Carolina, according to The News & Observer in Raleigh.
DOT reprimanded DeVere earlier this year for taking too long to complete the Rolesville Bypass, the News & Observer reported. It took just over four years to complete the 5-mile road.
DOT officials told DeVere the company could not place a bid for any new state projects until the Rolesville Bypass was completed, The News & Observer report said.
Baker confirmed Thursday that DeVere was barred from bidding on new state projects in summer 2014. That move was taken to allow the company to focus on contracts that it already had been awarded, including the Independence Boulevard project.
“The reason for the biding ban was unsatisfactory construction progress,” Baker said.
Devere has six current projects with the state, Baker said. Two are close to being completed. The others are one in Jackson County, one in Buncombe County and two in Mecklenburg County.
DeVere has contended with at least seven suits, liens or judgments related to contracts since 2014, according to a search of public records. One judgment was paid, a suit was vacated and a lien was canceled. A claim of lien was noted as “cancellation of lien by cash bond,” public records indicate.
Of the remaining cases, one judgment remains unpaid, one company has requested a mediated settlement and one suit is pending, according to public records.
The state’s most recent widening project on Independence is converting a roughly 1.6 mile stretch between Albemarle Road and Wallace Lane in east Charlotte to an eight-lane freeway. The $100-million-plus project is intended to provide relief from present and future congestion and improve efficiency.
More than 70,000 vehicles per day travel through the area. Traffic volumes are expected to range from 77,200 to 91,000 vehicles a day by 2030.
Traffic signals at Sharon Amity and Idlewild roads will be removed once bridges are completed at those intersections. A bridge at Conference Drive has opened, and the traffic signal there has been removed.
Interchanges will be built with the bridges at Sharon Amity Road and Idlewild Road. The project will also add features to improve safety and include accommodations for future transit service.
The DOT also plans to build toll lanes in the median of the highway.
Researcher Maria David and Steve Harrison contributed.
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms