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Florida officials move forward on Pasco road project abandoned by contractor

Bids are expected this week to complete the diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 and State Road 56. D.A.B. Constructors left seven road projects from Hillsborough to Citrus County unfinished.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
A view of State Road 56 overpass of Interstate 75 westbound in Wesley Chapel on Monday, December 17, 2018. D.A.B. Constructors was about to begin the diverging diamond interchange construction at I-75 and SR 56.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times A view of State Road 56 overpass of Interstate 75 westbound in Wesley Chapel on Monday, December 17, 2018. D.A.B. Constructors was about to begin the diverging diamond interchange construction at I-75 and SR 56. [ JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 17

WESLEY CHAPEL — State transportation officials set this week as the deadline for receiving new bids from road builders hoping to complete the diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 in Pasco County.

The project is one of seven major road improvement jobs stretching from Hillsborough to Citrus County abandoned by D.A.B. Constructors last month. The company, with three decades of construction history in central Florida, announced in July that it was shuttering its business.

The road work, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars in unfinished construction, will now be completed through the various surety bonding companies on each job. State officials are dealing with each individual contract separately, while also addressing specific issues on job sites left behind when D.A.B. closed its doors.

Delays in the diverging diamond project have been a hot topic for Pasco officials, who hoped the job would be done before this winter season. Last November, the state issued a notice of intent to D.A.B. that it was going to default the contractor, then officially issued that default on July 1.

D.A.B. officials blame the state for design problems that prevented them from finishing the job.

On July 28, the state received letters from D.A.B. “informing us that it was financially unable to perform or complete the performance of the work as prime contractor, which constitutes a voluntary default by the contractor. As a result, on Aug. 3, the department declared D.A.B. in default” for the other six projects as well, said Kristen Carson, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.

Those projects included adding lanes and reconstruction work on County Road 480, Sam Allen Road, from State Road 39 to Park Road in Hillsborough County; widening State Road 52 from the Suncoast Parkway to U.S. 41 and widening State Road 54 from Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road, both in Pasco County; and three projects to widen and improve U.S. 19 in Citrus County, for 18 miles from the Citrus and Hernando county line to the southern edge of the Crystal River.

On the diverging diamond project, which has been a center of attention for Pasco officials and nearby residents and businesses hoping for relief from congestion and construction, the bids were set to be opened last week. That deadline was reset for this week, Carson said.

“Moving the date will allow for more contractors to compete for the completion work,” she told the Times in an email.

She said she expects a more detailed timeline in the coming weeks.

For the remaining projects, Carson said state officials are in conversations with the bonding companies to take the next steps to prepare to bid the projects. In several other cases, work on project sites to adjust some traffic control devices is underway.

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At the State Road 54 construction site, state officials expect to complete maintenance of driveway access to businesses on the west side of the intersection of Eiland and State Road 54 in the next two weeks.

At one of the Citrus County projects, the state has run into another problem. Local residents have raised the alarm that D.A.B. had allowed water drainage from the construction site into the Halls River. At the end of July, the Southwest Florida Water Management District sent the state Department of Transportation a notice of permit violation for failing to protect water quality.

“The erosion control measures at this site have failed and illicit discharges are occurring,” wrote John Powanda, compliance engineer from the water management district after a site visit to the project.

Carson said her agency is addressing those issues.

“Additional erosion control measures have been installed on the south end of the project on the east side of U.S. 19 and immediately west along a creek leading to Halls River in order to harden the area against further erosion,” she wrote.

Timing on the other projects will be based on original job timelines with an emphasis on timely completion, she said, “as they are still subject to delay penalties.”