The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has declared a contractor in default on a $47-million highway project outside Pittsburgh. Work stopped in January on the section of road, which leads to Route 60 and Pittsburgh International Airport. The section is the southern end of a toll road that extends across the Allegheny–Washington county line.

On Jan. 18 the Turnpike Commission sent a letter to Smith & Johnson Construction Co., Columbus, Ohio, offering the company a chance to fix contract matters that included falling behind schedule and not paying its subcontractors on the 2.4-mile road section. The company had completed about 65%, when it stopped work in January, says Joe Agnello, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

The Turnpike Commission on Feb. 8 declared the company in default on its section of the project, Agnello says. “Hopefully it won’t affect our goal of opening [the roadway] in late summer or early fall of 2006,” he says.

Smith and Johnson was awarded the $45.9 million low bid for the section of road in April 2004 and had worked for 22 months on the project. The company was the lowest of eight bidders on the project and underbid the next lowest bid by almost $6 million. Change orders on the project increased it to nearly $47 million, $30.7 million of which was paid before the company defaulted, according to the Turnpike Commission.

Officials of Smith & Johnson could not be reached for comment. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in September that Smith & Johnson had stopped work on two highway projects in Indiana.

In 1997, the National Labor Relations Board described Smith & Johnson as a “disadvantaged minority business enterprise headquartered in Columbus, Ohio” and “primarily engaged in heavy highway (bridge, culvert, and roadway excavation as well as installation of guard rails) construction in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.” The case involved a complaint against the company by a union seeking recognition and bargaining rights on behalf of some of the contractor’s employees.

The Turnpike Commission’s legal department recently notified St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., St. Paul, Minn., from which Smith & Johnson secured a performance bond.

Work is on schedule on the two other sections of the 6.2-mile project, called the Findlay Connector. Dick Corp., Large, Pa., has the biggest of the three contracts, a $70.4-million, 1.5-mile section of road.