- Republican Pennsylvania state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill has proposed legislation that would require state agencies in charge of evaluating contractor bids to take into consideration "well-documented evidence of change order scheming."
- Delays and higher-than-expected costs on the Mount Rose I-83 Interchange project in York County, Pennsylvania, are the drivers behind Phillips-Hill's proposal. The project, she said, contracted to Tutor Perini subsidiary Cherry Hill Construction, should have been completed in 2018, and the contractor has missed the latest promised completion deadline of May 11. The cost of the project, according to the York Dispatch, has increased from $58.3 million to $62.7 million.
- Pennsylvania DOT spokesperson Dave Thompson told the Dispatch that Cherry Hill had not provided the agency with an updated schedule and still must complete surface paving, pavement marks, signage and traffic signals.
Change orders on large construction projects are very common, Tutor Perini said in a statement shared with Construction Dive.
"Most change orders result from owner-provided designs and field changes to those designs," the statement said.
Tutor Perini pointed to delays from "jack and bore" operations undertaken below I-83 and PennDOT's decision to remove unexpected materials encountered in excavation as part of why delays to the overall project do not land only on its shoulders.
Currently, PennDOT awards contracts to the lowest responsible bidder, leaving the agency susceptible to contractors who submit a low price but then increase the dollar amount of their contracts through change orders, Phillips-Hill wrote in her memo to all other state senate members.
During a legislative hearing more than a year ago, Phillips-Hill pushed back on Cherry Hill's claim against PennDOT for $24 million in change orders and a 598-day extension to the schedule. The contractor filed its request for extra time and money with the Pennsylvania Board of Claims in late 2019. Unexpected water and debris, Cherry Hill said, has contributed to delays and extra costs.
An attorney for Cherry Hill, C. Grainger Bowman, told Construction Dive last year that PennDOT's own design errors, and the hundreds of change orders required to correct them, have played a significant role in cost overruns and delays. Cherry Hill, he said, has offered up alternative solutions in order to mitigate the schedule days and additional costs but PennDOT has refused to consider them.
Some of the project's delays are likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all PennDOT offices closed, but re-opened emergency and critical highway and bridge projects later that month. According to the York Daily Record, the Mount Rose project was among those jobs allowed to continue. All other PennDOT projects resumed by June 5, 2020.