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New Matlacha span to open by end of month

October 10, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

The switch in traffic from the old span to the new Matlacha Bridge is expected to take place toward the end of October.

Randy Cerchie, deputy director, said the bridge is currently in a testing mode. He said they found an unanticipated sound in the trunnion bearing, which is the part that lifts the bridge up and down.

It will take about a week and a half to fix the problem, he said.

Cerchie said they are hoping to have the traffic switch from the old bridge to the new bridge in the next three weeks. He said soon after, the demolition of the old bridge will take place.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a change order of almost $300,000 for construction engineering inspection services and post design services for the Matlacha Bridge last week.

Dave Loveland, director of Lee County Department of Transportation, told the Board of County Commissioners during the Oct. 2 meeting that they sent them an email about three weeks ago from their Project Manager Sarah Clarke, to provide information about what is going to happen in terms of the schedule of opening the new Matlacha Bridge.

He said right now they are guessing that the substantial completion of the bridge is going to occur around December during some point.

A disagreement is currently being had between the Lee County Department of Transportation and the contractors of the bridge of what constitutes substantial completion.

"He seems to think once he has the new bridge open to traffic, that is substantial completion," Loveland said. "We disagree with that because we contracted with him to also tear down the old bridge as part of that. We think that needs to be done first before it is substantially complete."

Loveland said they are not anticipating any more change orders in relation to the CEI (Construction Engineering Inspection) contract.

The CEI provides continued services, along with post design services for the bridge, which includes plan revisions requested by Lee County, as well as the witnessing of shop and field testing, response to requests of information and review of non-conformance reports and contractor proposed correction action.

The last change order took place on Feb. 14 in the amount of $449,933.01 for post design services.

The change order that was brought before the board last week was an amount not to exceed $292,756.27 for construction engineering inspection services and post design services.

Loveland said with a slippage in the schedule, they are anticipating liquidated damage from the contractor that should give them enough or close to enough to cover this expense.

The total contract amount to date is $5,634,569.54.

He said the reason there is so many change orders related to this particular contract is because E.C. Driver & Associates Inc. was originally contracted to do the design work for this project and then they contracted with them through a change order process to do the CEI work, which is very unusual.

Loveland said they have very specialized expertise in terms of movable bridges.

He said the change order brought before the county commissioners last week is intended to get them through to the end of the project with the CEI activities.

Loveland said there are potential claims from the contractor that if all were approved it could add up to an additional million dollars. He said Lee County, as well as their CEI contractor, disagree with almost all of these potential claims.

"We are in that discussion process with the contractor on theses issues," he said.

Commissioner Tammy Hall asked when they are going to know where things stand with the Matlacha Bridge and when it is going to be completed.

Loveland said they are continuing the negotiations and are not exactly sure where it is headed. As they solve those issues, he told the board that they will be notified, which most likely will not be until closer to the end of the project.

The funding of the project, Loveland said, is being done through gas tax dollars. He said the county borrowed money through a bank loan to advance the project with a pay-back schedule using gas tax dollars.

That pay-back schedule is being done over four or five years.

"We have been doing pretty well with the repayment," he said.

The construction contract was around $20 million, Loveland said, which came out of the bank loan. The CEI contract, which includes the design, raised the price $5.6 million, which is being paid for through gas tax dollars.

He said they are looking at a total of a $25 million project.



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