Manpower, effort questioned in delayed Dixie Highway project

Published: Aug. 31, 2017 at 1:27 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2017 at 12:59 AM EDT
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One thing that stood out: a lot of standing around, smoking or using phones. (Source: WAVE 3...
One thing that stood out: a lot of standing around, smoking or using phones. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Metro Council President David Yates (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Metro Council President David Yates (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's five miles of Dixie Highway just inside the Snyder Freeway.

A $14 million pavement replacement project that started in 2015 was supposed to be completed in June of 2016.

"Just as you see it now as far as nothing being done workwise, nothing," neighbor Tom Zoeller said in July of 2016.

In August of 2017, I was interviewing the same guy, about the same project, in the same winding gauntlet of orange where 36,000 drivers a day tackle the obstacle course.

"What is the problem? I don't really know what the problem is," Zoeller said.

When we started digging we found the first long delay was the Louisville Water Company waiting on paperwork from the state to move one water main.

"No one is ever out there working," neighbor Becky Whitaker said.

"It seemed like all work ceased," Zoeller said.

When no workers could be seen for weeks at a time this summer, memos we obtained show the councilman for this district, David Yates, who also serves as the Metro Council president, complaining about the "lack of work on the Dixie paving project."

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"As President of the Metro Council, I have not seen a debacle like this anywhere in our city," Yates said.

He set up a packed public meeting to get answers. No one showed from the state or the construction company.

"It's mind boggling to me how that's acceptable," Zoeller said.

A July 20 release from the state transportation cabinet promised "Motorists, residents and businesses will soon see construction activity again on the Dixie pavement project."

How much construction activity is really going on there? What are they actually doing a daily basis to get this thing done? And how hard are they working? We spent two weeks patrolling this long span and recording.

What we saw each day on the five mile span was one crew of six workers with one back hoe, dump truck and small bulldozer, digging along the west side of Dixie.

On the Monday and Tuesday before the start of school on Wednesday, Aug. 16, the effort doubled to 12 workers to finish the exit from Valley High School. Then they went back to six workers.

And one thing that stood out: a lot of standing around, smoking or using phones.

Hall Construction's Tom Roberts refused to answer my questions on-camera.

"You don't understand construction," he said. "I could put 40 people on the job and it wouldn't expedite the project."

I asked him why he couldn't have one crew in the spot they're in one day, and another crew a couple blocks away in the spot I see them in a week later.

"I'm not going to debate this with you," Roberts said.

"To continue to have to drive up and down the most heavily traveled corridor in the entire city and see one crew working on one little area at a time is frustrating," Yates said.

"We specify a completion date, things we want built into the project," Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Andrea Clifford said. "It's up to the contractor how much resources they put in in order to meet the completion deadlines."

The Transportation Cabinet, which has already extended the deadline because of what it calls "utility conflicts," said all it can do is start assessing daily penalties of $25,000 if it isn't finished by May 15, 2018.

"It's just deplorable. Who's paying these people?" Whitaker asked.

"The state, you," I said.

"OK our taxes are paying this," she said. "We shouldn't have to put up with this three years."

Three years is how long it took to build the Lincoln Bridge and the East End Crossing. And while both those projects crossed a mile of water and joined two states, drivers on that span of Dixie are still waiting to travel smooth pavement from the Gene Snyder to Greenwood Road.

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