Officials: Route 272 bridge project will be re-bid
— A dispute between the state and its contractor that has brought the Route 272 bridge project to a screeching halt for nearly four months may be nearing a resolution, according to town officials.
North East Town Administrator Melissa Cook-MacKenzie told the town board on Wednesday night that she was contacted by the bridge contractor, Mumford and Miller Concrete Inc. of Middletown, Del., and told that the dispute has been resolved and the state intends to re-bid the project.
Mumford and Miller has been leasing space in the town’s maintenance facilities while the project is underway and the company informed her that it would be vacating that space at the end of June, Cook-MacKenzie said.
Cook-Mackenzie said she has not heard anything from the State Highway Administration yet on the status of the bridge.
But on Thursday afternoon, Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the SHA, said he couldn’t confirm that an agreement between the state and contractor had been reached and said that the agency had no update on the bridge project.
“This is still very much an active legal matter,” he said.
Similarly, Delegate Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil) said SHA District Engineer Greg Holsey recently informed him that although nothing has been settled yet, SHA anticipates there being a resolution “in the coming weeks.”
Calls to Mumford and Miller about the status of the bridge project were not returned.
Since construction on the Route 272 bridge started in January 2015, the project has been characterized by stopand-start progress as well as a lack of communication between the SHA and local officials.
In February, work on the bridge came to a halt due to an ongoing disagreement between the contractor and the state. An update posted on the SHA website on Feb. 16 said work had been “temporarily suspended” but may resume in the spring. That update was later removed from the website and replaced with an April 25 update that said work was temporarily suspended but may resume in the summer.
During the nearly fourmonth long work stoppage, town officials said they were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get updates on the project, with SHA officials saying they couldn’t discuss the dispute because it was a “legal matter.”
The Route 272 bridge serves as the main entrance into North East and, with summer tourism season approaching, worries over the project increased when the contractor pulled its equipment from the site in mid-April.
For now, both lanes on the bridge remain open, though traffic cones and concrete barriers still line both sides of the bridge.
And although the SHA website still lists the estimated completion date as fall 2017, North East Mayor Robert McKnight said last month that he doesn’t see how that could happen, given all the delays.
For McKnight, who has been mayor of North East since 1994, the possible rebidding of the bridge work is just the latest twist in a project that has been uniquely frustrating.
“This is the most ludicrous thing I have experienced in my 20 years in this business,” he said.
Though both lanes remain open on the Route 272 bridge, construction has been stalled since February.