After a road repair project took two years to complete and cost nearly $100,000 more the original estimate, Bridgeville Mayor Pat DeBlasio said it might be time for the borough look for a new engineering firm.
For years, Bridgeville has relied on The Gateway Engineers, a 60-year-old firm that has been involved in some of the region’s most notable projects, including the creating of SouthSide Works, revitalizing Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and installing the sign atop the BNY Mellon building Downtown.
But it’s Bower Hill Road that drew the ire of Bridgeville’s mayor earlier this month.
In 2013, Gateway Engineers oversaw project aimed at fixing the sinking, pothole-filled mess that was Bower Hill Road. The road was repaired, but within a year, parts of it began sinking again.
Then in 2015, Bridgeville awarded another $72,000 contract to re-repair the road, with Gateway again leading the project. Due to a series of delays, including a leaking gas line, the work wasn’t finished until this year, and by then, Bridgeville’s cost had more than doubled.
“We’re at $172,000… for work that should have been done properly in 2013,” DeBlasio told council. “Gateway Engineers has been the party that has looked at [this work], and inspected it, and frankly, I think they should bear the cost. And if not I think we should look at, as a borough, replacing Gateway Engineers. Because it doesn’t do us any good to pay a lot of money to have this kind of work if they’re not going to stand behind it.”
Gateway Engineers’ Joe Sites defended his firm’s work, arguing that all inspections and evaluations were performed in accordance with best engineering practices.
In 2013, engineers drove a 30-ton truck over the repaved road—a standard test call a “proof roll”—and there were no signs of problem points.
When parts of the road began to sink less than a year later Gateway Engineers suspected that water drainage was the culprit and ordered a storm sewer installed along the road. However shortly after the contract was awarded, a leaking gas line was discovered along the road. People’s Gas footed the bill for the repair and part of the repaving, but it took until the end of the construction season to finish the gas line work, leaving the rest of the road for next year.
In the meantime, Gateway Engineers identified additional areas of the sub-base that needed repair and requested a geotechnical investigation to examine soil conditions underneath the road. In 2016, borough council approved the additional cost, along with a change order for additional materials, which added to the project’s cost.
The road repairs were finished in about one week this past summer.
“We have a project that’s completed,” Sites said. “We’re doing everything that we can from an engineering standpoint using the best engineering practices out there and the best construction methods available to us.”
But water drainage is not new, DeBlasio said, and Gateway Engineers should have identified that problem the first time.
“If an underdrain was required to fix the road, that should have been suggested back in 2013, not two years later,” the mayor said. “Even with the geotechnical analysis, I don’t think that Gateway Engineers is certain what caused the road to fail and if they’ve solved the problem yet.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., borough council will hold a workshop to map out Bridgeville’s 2018 budget.