SANTA FE (KRQE) – A multi-million dollar road project is facing a big road-block and all New Mexicans will pay for it.
In late 2014, FNF Construction of Tempe, Ariz., won a bid for the project with the New Mexico Department of Transportation. The company was hired to pave Interstate 40 and rebuild a bridge over the interstate near the small community of Continental Divide, east of Gallup. The project would take six months and cost the state $6.5 million.
“This is a good size project,” said Armando Armendariz, a division director with DOT.
Glenn Slaughter was bracing for the construction. His family owns two souvenir shops, which tourists frequent during summer. Slaughter was told on and off ramps would be closed.
“It’s definitely going to hurt us financially. It’s going to be a big hardship for us,” Slaughter said.
Last march, FNF Construction put up the orange barrels, restripped the road and shifted lanes. Then, two days into the project, construction workers gave Slaughter the news.
“They had it all ready to go, then they told us they were going to cancel the project,” he said.
FNF Construction found that the state of New Mexico made a mistake on the survey: officials got the ground measurements wrong. And because the entire project is based off the survey, the whole project would have been wrong. So the state put the construction crews on stand-by while it figured out its next step.
“Every day it cost taxpayers money and ultimately we determined that it was in the best interest to stop paying that stand-by time and move forward with re-design with the project,” Armendariz said.
The DOT said it terminated its deal with FNF Construction.
The company won the bid with the state because it came in at the lowest price. But because of the state’s mistake, the costs are now piling up. The survey that took New Mexico crews about a month to complete had to be scrapped. And the DOT is now in a legal battle with FNF Construction.
“Because we have not fully settled determination costs and expenses,” Armendariz said.
In August, the state put the project back out to bid and will now pay another company, Fisher Sand and Gravel, $6.95 million to complete it. The cost went up $400,000.
“Material prices could have changed. The cost of oil does significantly fluctuate, which effects the cost of asphalt ultimately,” Armendariz said.
The DOT says the six-month project is expected to begin by the end of the year.
As for the state worker who botched the survey, he retired from the DOT. The state did not take any action against him.
Slaughter just hopes the new crews get this project right and finish it before tourism season next summer.
“We’re not looking forward to it,” he said.