Granite Construction Co. wants to terminate its contract to build a 10-mile-long stretch of Oregon highway that it says has been plagued by the presence of landslides. Granite says site stabilization would cost another $61 million on the $130-million contract, but state officials believe the cost to be lower.
Granite formally requested that the Oregon Department of Transportation terminate its contract to build the US 20: Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville Design-Build project. The $130-million contract was awarded in July, 2005 to Yaquina River Constructors, a joint venture of Granite and its majority-owned subsidiary, Wilder Construction Company.
Design of the segment is about 98% complete.
At issue are a number of ancient landslides, located near the proposed bridge abutments. The joint venture estimates stabilizing those sites would cost an additional $61 million. “While clearing and excavating the site, numerous and massive landslides throughout the seven-mile project site were discovered,” Granite said in a statement. “Some of these landslides are at critical sections of the project, including under bridge abutments.”
ODOT believes the cost will be much lower. “We did a preliminary geotech study identifying the areas in the bid documents and the bidders conducted additional tests,” says Joe Hardwood, ODOT public information officer.
Mark E. Boitano, Wilder’s chief operating officer, says that the company “did not have access to the entire site to complete the tests. It is heavily wooded. Nobody could have known the extent of the landslides.”
The joint venture and ODOT plan to negotiate to determine if the contract will be terminated.
According to ODOT, the U.S. 20: Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project will replace the existing highway with a new section built to modern safety and design standards (http://www.us20pme.com/background.php). The new route will be safer and three miles shorter. The new alignment follows the existing route in some locations while in others it will be relocated. Widening the highway will allow interstate trucks to use this route, and also provide additional passing lanes.