TXDOT: De­lay will not cost tax­pay­ers

Con­struc­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - B Con­tact Ben Wear at 4453698.

cent com­plete, with sev­eral col­umns in place at the site. TxDOT had paid Ballenger $9.9 mil­lion for the job be­fore the de­fault.

The $5.7 mil­lion Lake­way Drive project is about 35 per­cent done, with col­umns and the hor­i­zon­tal bridge deck pieces in place. Ballenger was paid $2 mil­lion.

Bob Kauf­man, TxDOT’s chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer, said the de­fault will have no fi­nan­cial im­pact on the agency. TxDOT re­quires con­trac­tors to pur­chase per­for­mance bonds at the be­gin­ning of a project, and un­der those agree­ments, the in­surer must find an­other com­pany to fin­ish the work. If that costs more than TxDOT still owes un­der the orig­i­nal con­trac­tor, the in­surer is li­able for the dif­fer­ence.

“Tax­pay­ers will not in­cur any­more costs, other than the de­lay, on all three projects,” Kauf­man said.

Ballenger, which was do­ing projects for the city of San An­to­nio be­fore its fi­nan­cial trou­bles, did not have any con­tracts with the city of Austin, said Sara Hart­ley, spokes­woman for the city’s Pub­lic Works De­part­ment.

The exit by Ballenger, founded in 1937, is the sec­ond to af­fect sig­nif­i­cant high­way projects in Austin since 2010. Wiser Con­struc­tion, a Ne­vada com­pany, went bank­rupt in July 2010 and left sev­eral TxDOT jobs, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of two over­passes at U.S. 290 and MoPac Boule­vard (Loop 1). Work did not re­sume on that project for al­most two months, and it was com­pleted this week, about a year af­ter orig­i­nal es­ti­mates.

Tom John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the As­so­ci­ated Gen­eral Con­trac­tors of Texas, said the con­struc­tion slump of 2008 and 2009 had led Ballenger to seek work out­side its tra­di­tional busi­ness area in the Val­ley. John­son said that forced the com­pany to use more re­mote ma­te­rial sources and new sub­con­trac­tors, at greater cost, and the com­pany ap­peared to have submitted overly ag­gres­sive bids as it tried to break into new mar­kets in Cor­pus Christi, San An­to­nio and Austin.

“And then costs go up, and this is what hap­pens,” John­son said.

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