The lead contractor on a long-delayed Interstate 44 bridge project has been picked to do the $33 million rehab of the eastbound Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River.
The Missouri Department of Transportation on Thursday said KCI Construction submitted the lowest of five bids for the work on the heavily traveled Blanchette Memorial Bridge, which links St. Charles and the Maryland Heights-Earth City area.
Meanwhile, KCI is suing two subcontractors on the I-44 double-bridge project over railroad tracks in Shrewsbury, alleging that they were responsible for “deck and design deficiencies” that caused work to stop for several months there.
The project was halted in November 2018 after inspectors discovered an unusual number of cracks on the first of the two new bridges to be completed.
Though safe to drive on, MoDOT said, the bridge’s life span could be significantly less than the usual 50 years.
The overall project began in March 2017 and was supposed to take 18 months and cost $16.6 million. But the two spans didn’t fully reopen to traffic until last June.
KCI, in the suit filed Dec. 6 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, said it wants two subcontractors —Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen Inc. and Oates Associates Inc. — to pay KCI at least $3.16 million.
That, the suit says, is to cover extra costs KCI incurred because of the design problems and the need to update the design and do related remediation work on both bridges.
Included in that figure is a $519,000 settlement KCI worked out last year with MoDOT, in which KCI agreed to pay $200,000 for the cost of a review of the crack situation by a consulting firm and $319,000 in “delay costs.”
The settlement with MoDOT also said KCI would be responsible for all redesign and remediation costs.
“The TWM/Oates Joint Venture has the legal obligation to indemnify KCI for all claims or losses, including attorney fees,” the suit states.
Officials with Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen, which is based in Swansea, and Collinsville-based Oates, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
An attorney for KCI, which has its main office in Green Park in south St. Louis County, also did not respond to a request by the Post-Dispatch for comment Thursday.
The first of the two Shrewsbury bridges opened to traffic in December 2017 but cracks in the concrete surface began appearing and grew worse in the spring and summer of 2018. The cracks were generally smaller than the width of a credit card.
Asked Thursday about KCI’s track record on the Shrewsbury bridges, MoDOT spokesman Andrew Gates said “they met their contractual obligation on the project” and carried out the settlement terms.
The work on the eastbound Blanchette bridge involves replacing expansion joints, repairing the steel structure, sealing the bridge deck and painting.
The bridge and its westbound counterpart together carry on average about 150,000 vehicles daily, according to MoDOT. That’s more than any St. Louis area bridges that cross the Missouri.
MoDOT said most of the work and the greatest impact on traffic will be from April to November of this year.
During the initial construction period, the eastbound span will be cut from five to four lanes, with two lanes crossing over to the current westbound bridge. Meanwhile, westbound I-70 will be cut from five to three lanes. Additional lanes will be shut down during nighttime hours.
The entire project is expected to be done by late fall of next year. Traffic impacts in 2021 will be limited to eastbound I-70, MoDOT said.