Of­fi­cials: Route 272 bridge project will be re-bid

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.”

NORTH EAST

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Though both lanes re­main open on the Route 272 bridge, con­struc­tion has been stalled since Fe­bru­ary.

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