I-90 project still on schedule, for now, despite shutdown warnings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2001

It has been a tough spring for road construction.

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

It has been a tough spring for road construction.

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Since the traditional beginning of the season May 1, contractors like Ulland Brothers, Inc. of Albert Lea have dealt with fluctuating temperatures, high winds, damaging storms and torrential rains.

But road crews are used to dealing with spring-time elements. The biggest threat to the current road construction season has nothing to do with Mother Nature.

Joan Ford, general superintendent for Ulland Brothers, has been in a state of suspense for the last two weeks as legislators try to complete remaining budget bills to avoid a state government shutdown. If they aren’t successful, Ford will have to pull road crews from two I-90 resurfacing projects because the Minnesota Department of Transportation won’t have the funds to keep the projects active.

&uot;We’re definitely following the situation. We can’t plan for the rest of the summer if we ignore it,&uot; Ford said. &uot;As far as reacting to it, we need to know something by (today) if we’re going to complete the project on time or walk away from it for awhile.&uot;

Ford said Ulland Brothers is contractually protected by work-suspension guidelines. The state has to reimburse the company for the cost of shutting down, moving and remobilizing. But a suspension of the I-90 project would cause some scheduling conflicts with other projects, work schedules and travel times. Coordinating with other contractors who have specialized jobs on the project would also become more complicated, she said.

&uot;It would all depend on how long the suspension would last. That factor would direct all our decisions,&uot; Ford said. &uot;It would definitely be a problem, though, because we would have no way of knowing exactly how long a shutdown would last.&uot;

&uot;Basically, it would mean more suspense,&uot; she added.

Currently, the $11.4 million I-90 resurfacing project is on schedule. With no shutdown, the highway would reopen by October with traffic on all lanes. The entire project, including access ramps, is scheduled for completion in November.

But Ford said a shutdown, depending on the length, could mean delaying the project well in the fall or even next season.

Public affairs representative Brian Jergenson said delays extending into next season would be costly, forcing MnDOT to re-bid many of their biggest projects.

&uot;It would create huge difficulties with traffic control and access. It would also have a huge budget impact on us,&uot; Jergenson said.

Delays of that magnitude could jeopardize future projects, such as the I-35 resurfacing from the Iowa border to I-90 planned for next season. Funding for future projects could be eaten up by reimbursements and other shutdown-related costs.

Jergenson, however, thinks a completed transportation bill could still clear the governor’s desk in time to keep work on schedule.

&uot;Things are looking up this week. We’ve got enough challenges getting these projects completed. This is one we aren’t equipped to handle,&uot; he said.

Meanwhile, Ford will be keeping a close eye on the Capitol on Wednesday and Thursday, wondering if she should begin withdrawing crews and sending them to other projects.

&uot;If no deal is apparent by the end of the day Wednesday, I don’t think we have a choice but to suspend the work,&uot; she said.