The Town of West Hartford has negotiated a new contract with the construction company that will complete the stalled Braeburn Road culvert rehabilitation project.
By Ronni Newton
A project to rehabilitate a culvert on Braeburn Road, that has been stalled for nearly two years, should be resuming within the next few weeks, Town Engineer and Acting Community Development Director Duane Martin said Wednesday.
Following extensive negotiation, an amendment to the contract with Old Colony Construction, the contractor originally engaged by the town in 2019 to do the work, was signed Monday, Martin said. The agreement resolves an outstanding payment issue between the town and the contractor, and increases the value of the contract to incorporate a design change that corrects additional deterioration in the structure that had been discovered after the work originally began.
Old Colony Construction will be ordering the necessary materials to move forward with the project based on the design change, Martin said. The timeline should be finalized later this week, followed by a pre-construction meeting between Old Colony Construction and the town.
The site has become an eyesore, and some area residents have raised questions about the safety of the area, particularly for students walking to and from Braeburn School.
In response to complaints from neighbors, and at the request of the town, Old Colony Construction has gone out to the site, Martin said. While they removed one piece of abandoned construction equipment, another has remained idle on the north side of Braeburn Road since the work halted.
Scaffolding that had been installed to work on the project on the south side of Braeburn Road was damaged at some point by a tree that fell across the brook.
Martin said the contractor has removed some of the stockpiled materials and town Public Works crews have removed some of the vegetation that had covered the equipment.
Town Manager Matt Hart said the sidewalk, which runs along the south side of Braeburn Road, is “all safe and passable,” and although signs remain that indicate “sidewalk closed,” it is completely accessible at this time.
Martin said clean-up – which includes removal of the tree that fell across a portion of the construction site – and resumption of the culvert rehabilitation work, should begin in the next few weeks. “I’m hoping to get the schedule and an update for the neighborhood,” he said.
Hart has continued to report on the project to the Town Council and provided the following update in February 2021: “This project has been in a holding pattern for several months due to a required design change to address the accelerated metal deterioration caused by delays in construction. The design change was completed and we are reviewing a requested change order from the contractor. Engineering staff held five meetings with the Contractor and Construction Inspector that resulted in limited progress. We recently ordered the contractor to remove some equipment and materials from the site to improve aesthetics while this matter is discussed further. A letter was sent to about 30 nearby property owners to provide an update on the stalled project.”
The Braeburn Road culvert rehabilitation project has been in the works for several years, and even before the recent issue initially was stalled due to former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s freezing of funding for transportation projects in early 2018. The state provided a grant of $131,572 through the State Local Bridge Program, and design work moved forward once the funding was un-frozen in July 2018.
The existing bridge and culvert were constructed in 1960, and the scope of the project included installation of a new parapet to allow the watercourse to be visible. The twin metal culvert is “severely corroded with voids under and around the culvert creating stability concerns,” Hart said in a previous report, but was still deemed safe for vehicles and pedestrians.
The project was originally intended to be completed by the end of 2019, at a total project cost of $357,005, with the $131,572 grant from the state providing a portion of the funding. With the design changes, the new contract is $599,052.57, Martin said Wednesday.
“When they got inside the culvert and were power-washing the identified more voids in the metal,” Martin said, and Old Colony Construction told the project designer that the rehabilitation plans would not accomplish what needed to take place. That began the lengthy delay negotiating the design change, and payment for the additional cost.
“We couldn’t get to the finish line, but we are there now,” Martin said.
Martin said the town approached the state to see if the grant could be increased, but was told that is not possible through the state Local Bridge Program. According to Hart, the town will fund the project through its bonded Capital Improvement Program. The project falls into the category of stormwater management.
Once the work resumes, it should take four to six months to complete the project, depending on the weather Martin said. While pouring concrete requires a certain temperature, installation of the metal rebar can be done in colder weather. A temporary electrical system is in place at the site.
“We understand it’s been a lengthy period of time,” Hart said, but delays like this don’t happen often.
“I want to thank [the neighborhood] for their patience, and I am optimistic we will get this done in a timely manner,” Hart said.
According to Martin, Old Colony Construction was originally the second-lowest bidder on the project. The company that was the low bidder was not qualified, he said.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.