Road construction hits pothole

More stories from Andrew Burnes


The three year project involving the construction of new roads and renovation of the water pipes under the roads around the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus has hit a snag.

As construction has progressed since the project’s beginning in late 2012, Lee Street and the northern section of Monroe have been repaved. Unfortunately, the process was not done correctly which will result in crews having to repave the roads again in addition to finishing the southern part of Monroe currently in progress.

“What was completed last year on the part of Monroe between Cooper and Live Oak, the part that’s done, that’s going to have to be done again because the seams were wrong,” Ballotti said. “We have to have a week of like 89 to 92 degree temperatures to lay the asphalt. It’s really critical so that it sets right.”

“We did run into a few snags,” Marc Clayton, the City Manager of Commerce, said. “That asphalt that they laid on part of Lee and the part of Monroe from Greenville to Live Oak is going to have to be redone. We’ve made it clear to them that we won’t accept anything less than a finished product that looks really good. You don’t make a final payment to that company until it’s completely done. The only reason they didn’t go back and repave all of the roads is because they want to do them all at the same time. We’d actually prefer that they do it that way so that they all look like they were done at the same time. The only road that’s finished and we’re fully happy with is Harlow.”

The entirety of Monroe, Stonegate and Lee were supposed to be finished on August 30 of this year. As it stands, Stonegate and Lee will both need to be repaved along with the northern end of Monroe. The southern end is still torn up completely.

“They told me that they were going to be laying the asphalt [this week],” Clayton said. “We’ll see.”

According to Clayton, every day that passes without Monroe’s completion costs Quality Excavation Ltd. $1,000 paid out to the city. This was written into the contract in an effort to speed along the project.

“As far as the contract, we divided the three year plan into phases,” Clayton said. “They’ve all got deadlines; some of them have penalties if they pass those dates, some of them don’t. It just depends on how the contract was written. The Phase that we’re on right now, Monroe and Stonewall, is what’s called Phase II and III. The substantial completion date was August 30. Now we’ve missed that, but not by a lot. I would think that there’s some urgency on their end, now.”

Over the course of the last two years, questions have arisen from both students and faculty about the quality of work and the speed at which it has been done. Speculation regarding the contracts has arisen along with anger over the fact that there have been many days when no

“We don’t pay anything up front,” Clayton said. “We just pay after the work is completed. Most of these companies that bid on these jobs have multiple jobs going on at the same time. They don’t just bid on a job and come to town. That’s how you’d like them to do it but they just don’t. They’ll move their people and equipment around. It’s frustrating when you haven’t got the people and equipment in your town.”

“There was a month this summer when there were no weather problems and it wasn’t hot but there was nobody here working because they went someplace else,” Ballotti said.

Despite the many setbacks and the fact that the workers of Quality Excavations have now missed at least two of their initially assigned deadlines, Mayor Ballotti still believes that the work has mostly gone according to plan.

“It’s a three year project,” Ballotti said. “It may seem like it’s been a lot of starts and stops, but we’re kind of on schedule.”

Several factors went into extending the length of time necessary to complete the project. The city hired Quality Excavations to carry out the majority of the project, resulting in a longer timeframe. In addition, the fact that the infrastructure below the roads had to be renovated added to fuel to the fire. Finally, a sizable budget (paid, in part, by the university) allowed for a lengthier timetable.

“TxDot came in and resurfaced the frontage roads in front of the University off of 24,” Ballotti said. “It took them an afternoon to do both sides and they look like they’re brand new. What this particular project involved was not simply paving the roads. Certainly that was part of it, but we had infrastructure issues that was decided it would be better to replace the pipes that run under the streets at this time than have to dig it all up again just to change the pipes.”

“If we could just go in and overlay a street, we could get in and out like TxDot did,” Clayton said. “Most small, old cities like we are have infrastructure underneath. It just doesn’t make since not to do the pipes, too. On top of that, we do what’s called stormwater drains and that’s really complicated because that’s what drains your rain, your wastewater into those openings that you see on the side of the street and take them to that wastewater plant. “The council agreed to sell $3 million in bonds. I want to really compliment the University because they were proactive. When they found out that many of the roads that were going to be renovated feed directly into the university, they agreed to split the cost with us on those roads which is about $1 million. Their part. So that gave us $4 million to work with. About that same time the Texas Water Development Board loaned us some money interest free to work underground. We hadn’t targeted those streets necessarily and they allowed us to target those. So we ended up with about $5 million to spend which let us stretch the project out some. It’s been a great partnership, I think, and it’s a partnership we want to nurture into future projects.”

Once the work on Monroe and the pavement of Lee and Stonegate have been completed, however, the project will still not be finished.

“Then to finish out the project, we’re going to go onto West Neal,” Clayton said. “West Neal should go pretty quick. We’re going to do it from Culver to Cooper. It doesn’t require anything underground. Now that road is highly trafficked when school is in session. I know there’s less people at the university during the summer, but there’s still lots of people coming and going. We try to be sensitive of that, but it doesn’t always work out. I would encourage anyone who has to drive to avoid that stretch of road when construction begins in November into December.”

The entirety of the project is slated to be completed by March of next year. Despite many of the issues and complaints from faculty and students, Mayor Ballotti is still optimistic and feels that the project will be worth the headaches and flat tires in the end.

“Each one of these little project delays seem like an eternity,” Ballotti said. “However when it’s done, we’ll have Monroe street from Bonham all the way to Live Oak new and repaved.”