The Broadway bridge over the Boise River opened two years ago this month. But problems are springing up with the project – prompting tests, lawsuits, and reevaluation.
After our initial story on a resurfacing of the bridge, a lawsuit between a bridge subcontractor and supplier came to light. And as BoiseDev was reporting on that piece of the story, we discovered yet another problem that transportation officials are now working to fix.
The bridge cost more than $20 million dollars and provides a vital link between Downtown Boise and Interstate 84.
Late last month, KB Fabrication and Welding filed suit in Ada County District court alleging supplier Pacific Steel & Recycling and its parent company Pacific Hyde and Fur Depot provided it with faulty stainless steel.
KB was hired by project contractor Knife River to install the railing that runs along Broadway Ave. on the west side near Albertsons Stadium.
The railing had to be made of a specific type of steel – and due to federal funding requirements, had to be produced in the United States.
KB alleges in court documents that Pacific Steel missed both marks.
“The IDT (sic) specification required that the pedestrian rail be fabricated out of stainless steel meeting the minimum requirement of ASTM A268.”
In mid-2017, the Idaho Transportation Department noticed that the railing was corroded after just a single winter season. It hired a metallurgist to run tests on the railing, and, according to the suit, the testing found that the “vast majority of the stainless steel in the Pedestrian Rail did not meet the… standard.”
Idaho Transportation Department spokesperson Jennifer Gonzalez said her agency took steps to reclaim the money spent on the railing.
“ITD backed out and then withheld payment from the contractor when it was discovered that the Albertsons stadium railing didn’t meet specifications for corrosion resistance,” she said.
KB says it asked Pacific for certification that the steel provided met the required standards, and received it in July of 2016 – shortly before the bridge opened.
According to the court documents, ITD charged Knife River $124,600.47 for the railing. Knife River then invoiced KB. But when KB worked to address it with Pacific Steel, it “disclaimed any fault” – which prompted the lawsuit.
Required: domestic steel. But is it?
Federal requirements for projects that get money from Uncle Sam require the majority of materials be made in the US. But KB says it now believes the railing “was produced in Taiwan or some other non-domestic location.”
The suit claimed Pacific “knowingly or negligently misrepresented the stainless steel sold to KB Fabrication as domestic product.”
That could pose an issue for the transportation department.
“Federal law dictates that domestic steel is required for the railing, and offers little remedy to accept it regardless of federal-aid reimbursement,” Gonzalez said.
ITD hasn’t decided what will happen to the railing – or the money it clawed back from Knife River.
“Since the future of the railing is still undetermined, we cannot speculate on what will become of the withheld payment,” she said. “ITD can only pay for completed and accepted work, so, for now, the funds remain in the project account.
KB is alleging breach of contract, breach of express warranty and fraudulent misrepresentation, and is seeking $240,000 “or such greater amount as established at trial.”
Pacific Steel did not reply to a request for comment.
A new problem discovered
During the reporting of this story, we discovered another issue.
Along the hand railing over the bridge itself, in many places the coating is cracked and peeling. In some areas, large sections of the rail are flaked off along the side and top – while in other sections the coating is still holding up.
The Idaho Transportation Department was not aware of the flaking on the gray-colored coating.
“ITD will look into the coating failure on the bridge railing that you pointed out,” Gonzalez said. “The coating failure pictured would not be expected.
Gonzalez said her agency will now go back to the contractor and ask that the protective layer on the two-year-old bridge be redone.