County, construction company haggling over Depot Street Bridge

Traffic flows smoothly on the new Depot Street Bridge, but the final price tag is far from settled.

As workers put the finishing touches on the concrete arch bridge, Jackson County and Ross Brothers Construction are about $5 million apart.

"We are in the middle of a claims process," said Jackson County Engineer Mike Kuntz.

Ross Brothers has been paid the $9.5 million contract amount, minus a 5 percent retention fee and about $800,000 in fines incurred when construction work continued past a Jan. 1, 2006, deadline, Kuntz said.

Ross Brothers representatives are appealing the penalties, and the company has filed a claim that would require the county to pay an additional $3.9 million.

Ross Brothers wants the additional $3.9 million to cover 1,020 days of labor. The company also seeks payment of the 5 percent balance due and the roughly $800,000 in fines, said Kuntz.

"Basically they are saying they are owed 1,020 days because these (construction) problems that occurred were (the county's) fault. And they would have been done three years ago otherwise," he said.

Representatives from Ross Brothers did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

If the claims process doesn't produce a mutually agreeable number, Ross Brothers "has the option to take it to court," said Kuntz.

Almost five years have passed since work began on the 300-foot span in May 2003. Construction was delayed by bad weather and problems (since resolved) with the bridge's suspension cables and metal underplating.

The bridge's unique construction drew attention from engineers around the world. It was built 27 feet upriver from its final destination, and moved into place with hydraulic jacks in September 2006.

As construction continued, penalties mounted against Ross Brothers. Fines of $1,600 per day began on Jan. 1, 2006, and accumulated for 499 days, Kuntz said.

The bridge recently became the property of the Oregon Department of Transportation in a jurisdictional exchange between Jackson County and ODOT, but until the bridge project is completed and paid for, the job remains the responsibility of Jackson County, Kuntz said.

In October 2007, ODOT and the county made 19 exchanges of roads and bridges. The county received 11 items in the exchange, including parts of Highway 227 (the "Tiller-Trail Highway") outside of Shady Cove. ODOT got responsibility for eight items from the county, including the Depot Street Bridge, Kuntz said.

The new bridge created challenges for both the county and the contractor, Kuntz said. But the larger project — new Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps in the city of Rogue River, renovation of two city parks below the bridge and a connection to the Rogue River Greenway trail — has been good for the community.

Kuntz said the bridge is "substantially complete. We're waiting for the contractor to finish the punch list," he said, including the finish on the bridge's concrete and correcting the "orange peel" finish on the metal railings.

"It's actually been a pretty neat job," he said. "It's just had its share of problems."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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