Diamond Drive, take four

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Major infrastructure upgrade continues

By Roger Snodgrass

The clock is now ticking on Diamond Drive Phase 4.

By a 5-2 vote, County Council awarded a $6.4 million plus contract Tuesday to AS Horner, for the next and last major roadwork and utility project on Diamond Drive stretching south from North Road to the Omega Bridge that spans Los Alamos Canyon.

Although councilors expressed concerns that the contractor was responsible for at least some of the public’s dissatisfaction over Phases 1 and 2, Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman began his presentation with reasons to expect a different outcome this time.

“Time is of the essence,” he said. “There are major changes that deal with how we look at contract time.”

Rather than so many calendar days, he said, there are firm milestones, which are fixed dates.

The first section of the project from North Road to the intersection of Sandia and Orange has to be finished by Aug. 16, for example. That’s the day before school starts. The work has to be finished there in order to avoid project traffic in the school area on Orange Street.

“This is going to make things different as far as how the contractor will be scheduling the contract,” Zimmerman said. “They can’t ask for delays. We actually eliminated the whole portion where time extensions can be added to the contract.”

There are also incentives and liquidated damages.

A penalty of $7,250 a day would be assessed, and the contractor could earn up to $86,000 in bonuses, Zimmerman said.

Other improvements in project design include a change in the work schedule, so the work goes from Wednesday through Sunday, avoiding Monday and Tuesday, which are the busiest days of the week.

Councilor Robert Gibson started with some specific issues, like coordinating with the high school, which will be in the midst of its own construction project in the fall. Several councilors saw that convergence as a challenge for both projects.

Gibson also pointed out that the milestones are back-to-back.

“There is no time for change associated with these documents,” he said. “I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure when we don’t schedule any additional time.”

Counilor Sharon Stover said she had a queasy feeling about the High School construction and the contractor’s past performance.

Zimmerman said the top project officials were no longer with the company.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle joined Gibson in voting against the project.

“I just can’t ignore the pleas of the drivers that have come up to me and said they have had to deal with delays because of our Diamond Drive project over the last three years,” he said. “Five years of traffic delays in the morning are far too much to ask of the public.”

Councilor Ralph Phelps confirmed that the target start date was still April 17.

“The award goes out tomorrow,” Zimmerman said, in order to meet that first start day which corresponds to a Notice to Proceed 45 days after the Notice of Award is issued.