The construction firm racing to finish the delay-plagued pedestrian underpass and bus stop project at the Aspen Airport Business Center stands to lose more than $280,000, or about 5 percent, of its $5.4 million contract.
Flatiron Construction Corp. is incurring “liquidated damages” of $7,800 a day because it has missed two November deadlines, one for the underpass itself and the other for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s new bus-rapid transit stations, said Brian Pettet, the county’s public works director, on Tuesday.
G.R. Fielding, county engineer, briefed the county commissioners on Flatiron’s “very ambitious” plan to get the project done by Christmas.
He said he met with company representatives before the commissioners’ work session Tuesday and had a “pretty frank talk about scheduling.”
The project has seen managers replaced for both personal and performance reasons, difficulties in relocating utility lines and, of late, cold and snowy conditions in which to operate.
“We tried to warn them that [the weather] would hamper progress,” Pettet said.
Responding to the delays, Flatiron crews were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week until winter set in, Pettet said. Shelters were recently erected at the site to provide crews some heat as they work to provide electricity to the bus stops.
They are still working every day of the week, but no longer are operating around the clock, he said.
“They made adjustments in the past couple of months, and they’re making huge progress on the project,” Pettet said. “But it’s just too late in the game, so we’re into liquidated damages with them.”
That term refers to the compensation a party to a contract can collect if there is a breach such as missed deadlines.
The first deadline, for completion of the underpass and returning Highway 82 to its normal alignment, was Nov. 8. Since then, Flatiron has been assessed a daily penalty of $3,900. On Nov. 27, the damage amount doubled to $7,800 a day after the deadline for the bus stops was missed.
Pettet said that Flatiron plans on working right up until noon on Christmas Eve. That is when a Colorado Department of Transportation restriction preventing construction on holidays kicks in.
CDOT spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said the rule is in place to reduce traffic impacts and aid the traveling public.
If Flatiron works up until Dec. 24, its liquidated damages would total $284,700.
County Manager Jon Peacock told the commissioners that staff is keeping close track of the project and its problems for a reconciliation discussion with the company. The post-project meeting is intended to suss out who was to blame for the various delays.
“We should’ve been done well before now,” Peacock said.
Flatiron, a construction conglomerate with several offices across North America, was awarded the contract after it was the lowest bidder. The underpass and bus stations is a “small project for this company to take on,” Pettet said.
Getting the stops finished will allow RFTA buses to remain on Highway 82, instead of detouring into the AABC and the airport’s frontage road.
“They’ve been a great partner in getting the project done,” Pettet said of the company. “But they do have some culpability for the project delays at this point.”