NCDOT pays $2.7 million more for “unforeseen circumstances,” price increases on Beaufort County bridges

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has paid $2,773,429 more for construction on a railroad bridge in Chocowinity and a bridge on US 17 Business connecting Washington and Chocowinity, they confirmed. 

The increase is a result of “unforeseen circumstances” and “price escalation on materials,” Sarah Lentine, a resident engineer with NCOT wrote in an email to the Daily News. 

Lentine shared the original contract amount for the railroad bridge was $10,205,567.10, but the amount for the US 17 Bridge was $1,262,777.20 for a total amount of $11,468,344. 

However, the contractor who worked on both bridges was paid $11,471,093.35 for work performed on the railroad bridge and $2,770,680.27 for work performed on the US 17 Business bridge. The total amount for both bridges is $14,241,773. 

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Work on the US 17 Business bridge is not fully complete, because concrete was poured incorrectly on the deck, according to Representative Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort, Hyde, Dare and Pamlico) who has spoken with NCDOT. 

He says his biggest concern is that work on the US 17 Bridge remains unfinished. The bridge partially opened on Friday, June 16. It closed on Nov. 30, 2021 so that construction could begin. 

“My biggest concern is we paid the bill when they’ve not yet delivered the product,” Kidwell said, referring to NCDOT. 

Lentine explained that NCDOT pays contractors as work items are completed on a monthly billing cycle which is standard procedure for the department. 

“The amount paid out is only for work performed on the project as of that date,” she wrote, “the Department’s staff inspects the work being performed and measures the materials being used in the work to determine the quantity of work to be paid to the contractor at the end of the billing cycle.”  

Lentine continued, “payments are made based on measurements taken by the Department for completed items of work, not a bill submitted by the contractor.” 

 Another issue in Kidwell’s mind is the amount of money that is required for maintenance of the US 17 bridge. According to Kidwell, concrete that was poured incorrectly was grounded up which means the rebar (reinforcing steel that is used in concrete structures) was reduced in size from three inches to an inch-and-a-half. 

This isn’t a safety issue; however, it could mean more repairs in the future.