Palouse Street bridge opening delayed

A dispute over drilling is at the heart of a delay in the expected completion of the Palouse Street bridge.

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WALLA WALLA -- A disputed drilling issue will delay opening of the Palouse Street bridge until at least mid-February.

A subcontractor who was supposed to drill shafts for bridge pilings failed to perform the work, said Monte Puymon, city of Walla Walla engineering associate. The general contractor, Apollo Inc., is bringing in a new company to complete the task but the hoped-for opening date of Dec. 18 will not be met.

The subcontractor, Firm Footings, Inc., of La Center, Wash., arrived at the work site on Nov. 20, but left two days later, Puymon said. "It didn't appear he wanted to continue and he left," he said.

But Firm Footings President Rod Larson said today his company couldn't complete the drilling because boulders were found underground instead of the expected soil conditions.

"The soils report said one thing, but what we encountered was entirely different," he said. "We drilled six holes and were only able to go four feet before hitting boulders." Larson said he offered to build a new drill, which would cost $8,000 and require an additional two weeks to complete, but was turned down.

"They weren't interested in a new delay," he said. The company's contract has since been terminated.

"I don't think anybody's at fault here, nobody had any way to know there were boulders there," Larson said. "The bridge was built in 1908 and nobody knew what they put in the ground back then."

However, Puymon said today that if the company had encountered a change of conditions, it should have submitted a report as soon as it observed the problem and followed it up within seven days with additional documentation. That didn't happen, he said.

"So he is right, there (was) a partial change of conditions. But we would have worked around this and he just left," Puymon said.

The rebuilding project started Aug. 24 and is budgeted at $859,000 with federal funds paying for the bridge structure and the city paying for decorative handrails and streetlights to preserve the character of the turn-of-the century structure.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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