Company fined $10K a day for I-26 widening delays

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The state Department of Transportation has penalized a contractor $2.8 million so far for delays on an Interstate 26 widening project already eight months behind schedule.

And the agency continues to withhold $10,000 a day on the $75 million contract.

Scheduled for completion last November, the project is now expected to wrap up in September.

Work has progressed since Anderson Columbia, the company contracted for the 10-mile project in Lexington and Calhoun counties, replaced its original joint venture partner Boggs Paving, DOT officials said Friday.

The explanation comes a day after Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler publicly demanded answers for the delay, saying his constituents are increasingly frustrated and angry.

The pavements’ deplorable condition and confusing lane markings are “ruining vehicles and risking lives,” said Setzler, D-West Columbia, who has twice written to agency officials asking for a community meeting.

“Motorists need to understand what’s going on,” he said Thursday.

Anderson Columbia Co. and Boggs Paving were awarded the contract in 2013 as a joint venture company. A year later, Boggs’ CEO pleaded guilty in North Carolina federal court for his role in a bid-rigging and kickback scheme involving nearly $90 million in government projects, and the company was barred from bidding on new state contracts.

But Boggs Paving kept its two existing contracts in South Carolina, including the I-26 joint venture. The company completed work on its $1.5 million contract to resurface 11 roads in four counties.

Last November, Carl “Drew” Boggs was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiracy and money laundering.

The Department of Transportation does not know if or how Anderson and Boggs would split the fines. The agency did not require Boggs’ replacement, but the switch was necessary for the project’s progress, said spokesman Pete Poore.

“We have no insight into the legal or contractual relationship between the two companies or how the fine will be disbursed. It will be assessed to Anderson/Boggs,” he said.

Anderson Columbia officials declined to comment Friday. A message left at Boggs Paving wasn’t immediately returned.

On Thursday, state grand jury indictments were unsealed against three former Department of Transportation workers.

According to court papers, in one scheme, a supervisor formed a secret company with a neighbor and sent DOT work to it. In the second scheme, a director asked contractors directly for money in exchange for work. In the third scheme, an inspector kept DOT equipment off the books and then sold it, keeping the cash.

Setzler said the I-26 delays and indictments show the need for an operational study of the agency.

A clause he inserted in the state budget directs state Inspector General Patrick Maley to hire a national firm to study DOT’s structure for cost efficiencies and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Debate on how to fund tens of billions of dollars’ worth of highway needs statewide is expected to continue next year.

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