A controversial project to refurbish Akron’s All-America or Y-Bridge and add a fence to keep suicidal people from jumping to their deaths ended up being more costly — and taking longer — than expected.
The final cost is expected to be nearly $8.7 million, which is $2.5 million higher than the original bid amount. The project was finished — only a few minor tasks remain — Dec. 22, when the final fence panels were installed. This was nearly five months past the original completion date in August and several weeks after a second deadline in November.
City and state officials say the main reason for the additional expense was extra, unforeseen work needed to complete the project, including a section of the bridge deck that was severely deteriorated and had to be replaced rather than resurfaced. They blame the delay on a coating problem with the fence, which was the part of the project that garnered the most criticism, although it wasn’t the most expensive.
Akron might pursue liquidated damages against Posen Construction Co., the main contractor, and its subcontractor, Future Fence Co., for the delayed completion. Both companies are based in Michigan.
Still, all of the parties involved in the project, which mostly will be paid through federal and state funds, including stimulus money, seem satisfied with the final product.
“I think it turned out wonderfully,” said Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, adding that he has gotten compliments on the completed bridge.
“It looks better than I thought it would, to be honest,” City Council President Marco Sommerville said. He paused and added, “I hope nobody jumps off it. Somebody’s going to find a way.”
City officials emphasized that the project was about more than a fence. It was about fixing the bridge while adding a fence. Work included redoing the 30-year-old bridge deck, repairing the parapets and the concrete on the underside of the deck, replacing the expansion joints, adding decorative piers and LED lights, and installing a fence that is designed to deter jumpers.
Mike Teodecki, a city engineer who worked on the project, thinks the refurbishments added 12 to 15 years to the life of the bridge and spared Akron from a $40 million project to replace the bridge’s deck that might have been only a few years away.
The project had nine change orders that totaled nearly $1.1 million, but most of that cost went to two additions.
The more expensive, costing about $816,000, was the full replacement of a 380-foot section at the south end of the southbound span of the bridge’s deck. The rest of the deck was repaired using hydro-demolition — or water blasting — to remove the top layer, followed by a new concrete overlay. City and state officials decided the one section should be replaced.
“It was much more deteriorated than the rest of the bridge,” said Travis Capper, a city engineer on the project.
The second big-ticket item — at nearly $185,000 — involved the collection, testing and disposal of the water used during the hydro-demolition process to satisfy a new federal environmental regulation.
Other change orders were much more minor, and included electrical revisions, asphalt and sidewalk repairs, the removal and installation of lights, and the addition of covers to the lights on some of the new, large concrete piers installed on the bridge.
The Federal Highway Administration and Ohio Department of Transportation approved the change orders and agreed to pay the additional cost.
Jerry Jones, ODOT’s construction monitor for the project, said all of the parties thought replacing the damaged part of the deck made more sense than a less costly fix that might not have lasted as long.
“The way to maximize the entire deck life was to replace it the right way — with a full-depth replacement,” Jones said.
The project began in March 2010 and originally was expected to be finished by August 2011. The city gave Posen an extension until early November because of the additional work, especially the full-deck replacement.
This likely would have been sufficient, had it not been for a problem — discovered in May — with the fence coating. An analysis showed the brown coating with black speckles would be defective in a few years, either flaking off, breaking up or leaving a white, chalky texture. The city halted fence installation and ordered Future Fence to get the subcontractor it used for the coating to correct the problem or find another company to do the work. Corrective measures would be done at Future Fence’s expense.
Future Fence, which manufactured and installed the fence, originally subcontracted with B.L. Downey in Illinois to do the coating, but ended up going with E.A. Technologies in Indiana to finish the job.
Rick Russel, Future Fence’s vice president, said the coating problem cost his company $300,000, as well as additional expenses that aren’t easily calculated. He said his company might sue B.L. Downey to try to recoup costs.
The president of B.L. Downey did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Akron had KTA-Tator Inc., a Nashville testing company that found the problem with the original coating, monitor the coating process and test the new product for deficiencies. Rick Evans of G. Stephens Inc. in Akron, the city’s project manager, said no additional problems were found.
Though the product was good, Russel said E.A. Technologies struggled with completing the fence panels in the proper sequence, which slowed the installation process. Russel asked Akron for permission to bring on a second coater, but the city wanted Future Fence to stick with E.A. Technologies.
“We did everything in our power,” Russel said.
City officials appreciated that Future Fence responded quickly and handled the coating problem.
“When we got the results from KTA, they jumped on it,” Evans said. “They said, ‘We’ll resolve this issue.’ ”
Akron, however, wasn’t happy with the delay in completing the project and might pursue damages.
Future Fence hoped to have the fence installation completed by Dec. 15, but finished a week later. This was about seven weeks past the extended Nov. 8 deadline.
The city, which could pursue damages equal to $1,600 per day, will consult with federal and state transportation officials.
“We will look at the effort of Future Fence,” Evans said during a mid-December project status meeting. “Dec. 15 has come and gone, and now what are we going to do? If it had been completed by Dec. 15, it might not have been an issue.”
Future Fence and Posen both hope the city decides against pursuing damages.
“We’ve worked diligently to get it done. Unforeseen items held it up,” said Nate Morrisroe, a project manager who is closing out the job for Posen.
Morrisroe added that “it’s dangerous to point fingers until you know what’s assessed.”
He thinks the bridge — and the fence — look great.
“The city should be happy with the product we turn over to them,” he said.
Officials with the Federal Highway Administration and Ohio Department of Transportation were pleased when they recently did a walk-through of the bridge. Federal and state funds will cover the bulk of the project’s costs, with the city picking up about $400,000 for in-house design and consultant expenses.
“Overall, we were very satisfied,” said Jones, who is with ODOT’s District 4, which includes Summit, Stark and Portage counties.
Jones said ODOT was more pleased with the fence on the Y-Bridge than with a fence recently added to another District 4 bridge. He said the change orders for the Y-Bridge — excluding the two big ones — were relatively minor, considering the size of the project: about 2 percent of the overall cost.
“That is a small mount of dollars for change orders in that type of a job,” he said.
City officials, who said at the outset it wasn’t feasible to design a fence that couldn’t be scaled, think they did their best to create a product that will curb jumping as much as possible. The fence, which stands with the parapet wall at 10 feet tall, has special features, including smaller openings than usual, that are aimed at making it difficult to climb.
“We did everything to the best of our ability to provide a cost-effective solution that was constructible to deter people and provide a safe pedestrian crossing,” Teodecki said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.