$5 Million Taxpayer Tab for Failed I-85 Repaving Project

May 27, 2015

Investigative Reports

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I-85When it comes to road repairs, planning mistakes can lead to big taxpayer bills.

Take the Interstate 85 repaving project in the Upstate, for example.

The S.C. Department of Transportation in June 2014 awarded a $44 million contract to Nashville-based Rogers Group Inc. to repave a heavily traveled, 12-mile section of I-85 between Greer and Wellford. Work began in August 2014.

But the project, which originally was planned to be completed by October 2016, was halted in April and the contract with Rogers Group canceled after workers discovered that deterioration to the underlying asphalt was far worse than originally thought, according to local media reports. Work stopped after more than 100 drivers had filed damaged complaints because of the crumbling road, WSPA-TV reported.

DOT officials couldn’t say then how much money had been spent before the contract was terminated. But DOT documents obtained last week by The Nerve show that Rogers Group was paid a total of $5,051,856 from September 2014 through March 13.

A DOT source who asked not to be identified questioned why DOT did not take geotechnical soil borings before starting the repaving project to determine the condition of the underlying road surface.

“They can’t even let a project correctly and wasted $5 million,” the source told The Nerve.

Contacted Friday by The Nerve, Dennis Garber, a DOT assistant district construction engineer, defended the agency’s handling of the project.

“What we scoped out – this is done throughout the state,” Garber said. “It’s our typical way to build a project. Something like this comes up occasionally, but in isolated spots.”

“But when they (Rogers Group) got to milling (I-85), the road was falling apart,” Garber continued.  “It was something beyond normal expectations.”

Garber denied the $5 million was wasted, noting, “The work they (Rogers Group) did had to be done anyway; the material that was removed would have to be removed anyway.”

Still, Garber acknowledged that because of the high level of deterioration in the underlying road material, “we need to rescope it and tell contractors to build it a new way.” He didn’t know, however, whether the new contract would cost more than the original $44 million contract awarded to the Rogers Group.

Garber said he hopes work will resume “later this summer” on the I-85 stretch, though he couldn’t say when it will be completed.

Contacted Tuesday by The Nerve, Mitchell Metts, DOT’s director of preconstruction, declined comment when asked whether the agency had taken soil borings before the repaving work began. He referred The Nerve to DOT spokesman Pete Poore, who didn’t respond to written questions.

Tom Kenley, a spokesman for the Rogers Group, declined comment Tuesday, referring The Nerve to company general counsel Dan Rose, who didn’t respond to several phone and written messages.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

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