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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter12:31 pmJul 9, 20240

Cost of decade-old Roland Avenue repave drops from 172% to 163% of its budget

It doesn’t happen often, but this week the city gets back some money from a project beset with EWOs (Extra Work Orders)

Above: Roland and Wyndhurst avenues where heavy flooding took place before the city reconstructed the curbs and drainage. (Mark Reutter)

Cost overruns are a frequent subject of Brew reporting, the latest being the ballooning price of waterproofing City Hall’s leaky walls and roof.

But today we offer good news: the city is clawing back almost $350,000 from a contractor who repaved Roland Avenue some 10 years ago.

The mile-long rebuild, from Cold Spring Lane to Northern Parkway, was originally awarded to M. Luis Construction for $3.9 million in 2012.

When finally completed in 2016, the price had grown to $6.7 million, or 172% of the original bid.

What happened in the intervening years included heavy flooding of adjacent residential properties due to altered alignments, faulty gutters and stunted curbs.

City regulations, for example, require curbs to be 4 inches (minimum) and 6 inches (maximum) above the roadway.

The Brew measured newly installed curbs on Roland Avenue that were barely ½-inch higher than the asphalt.

City to replace three miles of faulty curbs along Roland Avenue (9/6/15)

In Roland Park, a civil war over a cycle track (11/7/15)

Tree treatment adds still more costs to Roland Avenue repave (4/21/16)

Following a crescendo of complaints from the Roland Park Civic League, city DOT ordered M. Luis to reinstall 16,2000 linear feet – or more than three miles – of curbs and gutters between Deepdene Road and Cold Spring Lane.

The ripout-and-replace added $900,000 to the burgeoning cost of the project, as the contractor and DOT blamed each other until finally settling on the original engineering design as the culprit.

Uprooting Elms

A few months later, the Board of Estimates approved a $669,000 Extra Work Order to protect the stately procession of Zelkova elm trees that lined the median strip of Roland Avenue.

DOT disclosed that some 272 mature Zelkovas were threatened when M. Luis replaced the curbing, digging into their root structure and laying down new concrete.

An assessment by then-Baltimore Parks Director Bill Vondrasek underscored the urgency of the rescue effort, writing to top city officials:

“After seeing the trees yesterday, I can assure you it is going to get way worse in terms of community backlash when most of the trees are 60 percent dead or more.”

If M. Luis’ median work is not modified and remedial efforts not undertaken immediately, Vondrasek continued, “We will have a median with beautiful new curbs filled with large dead trees.”

Contractor M. Luis taking out the curbing on Roland Avenue it installed thre months earlier in 2015. (Mark Reutter)

Contractor M. Luis’ replacement of the median curbing left the twin rows of Zelkova elms along Roland Avenue battered and forlorn in 2015. Luckily, most of the trees survived the rough treatment. (Mark Reutter)


Snail-slow Process

A final closeout audit, which takes city and state transportation agencies years to complete, has resulted in a net credit of $345,009.36.

The Board of Estimates is scheduled tomorrow to approve the credit, which includes “overrun and underrun adjustment for items do not use or used during the project,” according to DOT’s expenditure authorization request form.

Translated, this means that sometimes the contractor used fewer materials than were calculated in the contract, and sometimes items were not ordered in the quantities needed.

It should be noted that two DOT inspectors were assigned to monitor the project to spot just such discrepancies in real time.

In any event, the final closeout adjustment lowers to $6.36 million the cost of repaving a mile of Roland Avenue, or 163% of the original sticker price.

DOT's explanation for the credit coming to the city for the 10-year-old Roland Avenue paving project.

DOT’s explanation of the credit due “for items do not use or used during the project.”

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