Rhode Island officials blame AECOM for crippling traffic
- Traffic jams resulting from a failed diversion plan meant to ease vehicular flow around a major bridge construction project in Providence, Rhode Island, have led state transportation officials to declare that flawed data in a 2015 AECOM report is partially to blame and has raised questions for some about the more than $100 million the company has accumulated in the past 18 years for various violations, according to GoLocalProv.
- The Rhode Island DOT hired AECOM to come up with a plan, as part of a wider $3 million consulting contract, that would minimize traffic congestion while the department rebuilt the Washington Bridge, which is part of the Interstate I-195 system, according to WPRI Channel 12. When construction started late last month, however, there were massive traffic backups and delays. Rhode Island officials did admit to WPRI, though, that they did not follow AECOM's recommendation and allowed extra, unanticipated traffic onto I-195. The state DOT is holding off on bridge construction until it can come up with a better traffic diversion pattern.
- After the traffic disaster, a media investigation into AECOM led to the discovery of 74 violations since 2000, all unrelated to the I-195 study or other work the company has performed for the Rhode Island DOT. The largest fine was in November in 2016 when AECOM, according to the Department of Justice, paid more than $57 million to settle a False Claims Act fine on behalf of URS, a company it acquired after the violations took place. In addition to that case, the company or its subsidiaries have been fined for violations including those revolving around environmental claims, wage and hours and nuclear safety.
The potential for traffic congestion during construction of a new bridge is one of the major reasons that some DOTs have embraced accelerated bridge construction (ABC).
ABC takes construction to an offsite location, yard or enclosed space to protect against extreme weather, thereby avoiding the necessity of diverting traffic around an active construction site. Not only is this safer for workers, but also for drivers who would otherwise have to navigate alternate routes and hazardous construction zones.
Once crews have built the bridge, either in its entirety or in large segments depending on the size, crews transport it to its permanent location and assemble it onsite. Instead of inconveniencing motorists and interrupting the flow of goods for several months, ABC can be used to put a new bridge in place in just a matter of days. Although using ABC is typically more expensive than traditional bridge-building techniques, Bala Sivakumar, a professional engineer with HNTB, told Construction Dive that once the public gets used to having these projects completed so quickly and without being major nuisances, state DOTs have trouble telling taxpayers they're going back to the older, inconvenient methods.
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