Waiting

Work on Briarwood and Ridgewood remains unfinished

Contractors and the city of Jackson appear to be at fault for delays on a $4.7 million street resurfacing project.

Nearly a year after Jackson approved a contract to repave seven major city streets, work remains unfinished. And save for a few days in August and one day in July, contractors have been nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, Briarwood Drive and Ridgewood Road, two of the streets included in the contract, have been milled and paved in some areas, but untouched in others.

Vehicles turning onto Adkins Boulevard at the Ridgewood intersection must come to a near stop when driving over a pavement cut there. A similar problem on Briarwood was fixed after a cut there led to a rear-end collision.

City officials say it could be another month before repaving begins again, as the main contractor waits for its subcontractor to complete sidewalk and driveway work.

“What we’re focused on now is completing the work,” said Engineering Manager Charles Williams. “The contractor and the city are committed to that.”

Superior Asphalt was awarded the $4.7 million mill and overlay contract last August.

The firm brought on Bulldog Construction of Madison to do driveway work and make sure sidewalks are brought into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

Superior was given 240 days to complete the work and was given a notice to proceed in November.

The project should have wrapped up in June.

Several factors contributed to the delays, including a poorly drawn contract, poor scheduling, and a lack of communication between the city and contractor, according to Williams.

Milling and overlay on Briarwood and Ridgewood, for example, began without

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the sidewalk work being completed. The city’s former one-percent program manager told the Sun previously that Superior couldn’t begin work on the streets until sidewalks were finished.

However, not all of the problems can be laid at the city’s feet.

Superior has been unable to finish work on Briarwood and Ridgewood because of delays with Bulldog.

City met with contractors two weeks ago, but have no clear answer why Bulldog has been delayed.

“I don’t think anybody got a clear rationale for the delay,” Williams said.

Officials with Bulldog and Superior could not be reached for comment.

 

Bid specifications and contract terms were drawn up by former Public Works Director Kishia Powell and Infrastructure Improvement Plan Coordinator Lacey Reddix, neither of whom are still with the city.

The project is being paid for with funds from Jackson’s one-percent infrastructure sales tax.

Superior was chosen through the blind bid process and had the lowest bid among firms submitting prices.

The contract included milling and overlaying sections of seven major thoroughfares and making base repairs where needed.

Driveways were to be leveled out to better tie in with the paving, and sidewalks and other pedestrian features were to be brought in to ADA compliance, per a mandate from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The mandate was handed down several years ago, and requires all local governments to bring pedestrian features into compliance as part of road resurfacing projects, Williams said. 

The contract included no penalties for not completing the work, he said.

Typically, agreements include “liquidated damages,” such as daily fines for not finishing projects on time.

Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) contracts, for example, carry penalties ranging from $150 a day for projects $100,000 or less to $3,500 a day for projects costing $20 million or more.

Williams said the city has learned from its mistakes, and will likely include fines in future contracts. It also will consider reducing the number of work days to ensure projects don’t linger.

“There are things to consider,” he said.

The city council approved the agreement last August, and work was expected to begin after Labor Day.

However, Superior was not issued a notice to proceed until November.

Without the notice, Superior was unable to work in the drier and warmer months of September and October.

Notices to proceed are the official “go-aheads” given to firms working on city contracts. The notices are only issued after the agreements are signed off on by city legal and the mayor.

To pour asphalt, temperatures consistently must be above 50 degrees. Asphalt also must be poured in dry weather, city officials told the Sun previously.

Average rainfall totals for the months of September and October are 3.03 inches and 3.93 inches respectively, according to the U.S. Climate Data Web site. Low temperatures for the two months are around 65 and 53 degrees respectively, ideal for paving.

In November, though, average lows fall into the 40s, and then into the 30s in December, January and February, U.S. Climate Data states.

Average rainfall also increases during those months by approximately one and two inches.

Superior began work on the first roadway, Gallatin Street, on January 20, after former Mayor Tony Yarber threatened to cancel the contract.

In all, portions of seven streets were included in the contract: Ridgewood from Old Canton Road to County Line Road; Briarwood from North State Street to I-55 North; Northside Drive from Medgar Evers Boulevard to Sunset Street; Raymond Road from Forest Hill Road to Castle Hill Road; McRaven Road from Maddox Road to the city limits; Greenway Street from U.S. 18 to Robinson Road; and Gallatin from the viaduct to South State Street.

Ridgewood averages around 9,600 vehicles a day near Old Canton, around 18,000 a day near Adkins Boulevard and around 12,000 a day near Ridgewood Court, according to MDOT traffic count maps.

Workers were supposed to transition to Briarwood and Ridgewood in February, but the projects were put off until May.

When crews did arrive, construction got off to a fast start. Milling was completed in a matter of days, and the initial coat of asphalt was poured in several areas.

In mid-June, work was halted to due unusually wet weather, including several consecutive days of rain during the weeks ending June 24 and July 1.

Crews worked one day in July and picked up again the first week of August, when Bulldog was back on Ridgewood working on driveways.

Superior is owned by Yates Construction. Bulldog’s officers include Nancy Black, Eric Durham and Stan Black, all of Madison, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Web site.