Penalties pave work on freeway;
Delays on U.S.59 cost $ 11,000 a day
July 1, 1995
If you suspected the expansion of the Eastex Freeway was
moving a little slowly, you were correct.
Construction companies along parts of U.S. 59 now are
absorbing nearly $ 11,000 in late fees per working day, according to
engineers at the Texas Department of Transportation.
Though the companies recently have quickened their pace, the
penalties will continue to pile up until the work is complete,
perhaps as late as 1997, the engineers said.
"It's just the slowness in their approach to the work. The
progress is not as good as it should be for the time spent," said
Gary Lemley, transit project manager for the Metropolitan Transit
Authority, which also is counting on the companies for its
high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Most of the late sections are north of Loop 610 and south of
Greens Bayou, the first Eastex widening projects to begin in 1991
and 1992. Even with unexpected delays to clear underground storage
tanks -- for which the companies were not penalized -- the sections
were supposed to be complete earlier this year.
Four segments awarded to Williams Brothers Construction now
are being fined a total of $8,800 per day for an apparent total of
more than $ 1 million in penalties over the past several months,
said Ruben Martinez, a transportation department area engineer.
Traylor Brothers Inc., which also has a section of the work,
is 75 working days into a $2,100-per-day fine, Martinez said.
Though the fines sound steep, the total amount of the four
Williams Brothers contracts is $120 million. Even if the company
does not finish the sections until 1997 as state officials
estimate, the projected fine would not represent an overwhelming
percentage of its fee.
For that reason, all of the newer Eastex contracts to the
north and south will contain stiffer fines of $ 10,000 per day
rather than a current formula that averages between $ 1,700 and
$ 2,500 per day for each segment, Martinez said.
Officials of Williams Brothers could not be reached for
comment Friday. Martinez said he felt the completion dates in the
contracts were reasonable.
"Williams Brothers is a good contractor. They do excellent
work. Maybe they bit off more than they can chew," he said.
Williams Brothers is also the contractor that was supposed to
have finished the $ 92 million Fred Hartman Bridge over the Houston
Ship Channel in 1992, with completion now expected by September.
While the company has been assessed more than $ 4,200 per work
day in late fees for more than two years, it has countered by
asking the state for an additional $ 58 million, alleging poor
planning by state officials, said Jon Hott, a transportation
department assistant project engineer.
U.S. 59 has more than $330 million in work under way, with an
additional $340 million planned.
A section from South Shepherd to Spur 527/Smith Street,
leading into downtown Houston, is planned to be widened from 10
lanes to 12 with an elevated HOV lane that is now being opposed by
A section from Clay Street to Franklin Street downtown will
be re-decked, keeping six lanes but with a planned loss of one
entrance and one exit ramp, which also is stirring local concern.
From Franklin north to Beltway 8, the freeway is being
widened to 10 lanes with an HOV lane, and from Beltway 8 to
Northpark the road will be eight lanes, with an HOV lane to the
Montgomery County Line.
Under current plans, the freeway eventually will be expanded
to six lanes north to the proposed Grand Parkway.
In the meantime, Martinez said, state officials believe
traffic is moving smoothly through construction areas unless there
is an accident.