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Seismic retrofit stalled on ramps to Queensway Bay Bridge in Long Beach

March 22, 2011|By Rong-Gong Lin II | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Work has been stopped for four months on a critical structural retrofit project of ramps leading to a bridge in Long Beach, and there is no sign when it will resume.

The retrofit of the two ramps on the southbound lanes of Queensway Bay Bridge, which connects downtown Long Beach with the Port of Long Beach, was abruptly halted Nov. 19 with only 35% of the work completed. The contractor has abandoned the site, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, which hired Granada Hills-based A.M. Classic Construction for the project.

"How soon are we going to get this resolved so we can get people back on the job?" county Supervisor Don Knabe asked at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Knabe got no answer. County officials are mired in legal maneuvering over whether to declare the contractor in default.

Although Department of Public Works officials recommended such action two weeks ago, supervisors did not act after an advocate argued on behalf of the contractor that such a move would mar the contractor's ability to gain government contracts in the future.

On Tuesday, a public works official said the department is continuing to work on the dispute and hopes to wrap up a resolution quickly. The department is now asking that supervisors not act on the recommendation to declare A.M. Classic in default until mid-April.

Oscar Mahdavi, owner of A.M. Classic, said in a phone interview that the Department of Public Works was being "very, very harsh on me and my company." He said he stopped work because the county owed him more than $1 million, and said he ran into technical problems as his company started to work. Mahdavi said he has been working on public works contracts for 25 years, including bridge-widening and retrofit jobs.

The Queensway Bay Bridge is at the mouth of the Los Angeles River and is primarily used by passenger vehicles. If it collapses, it would affect cargo traffic from the Pacific Ocean, said Lee Peterson, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach.

"It's an important project. Seismic safety is important," Peterson said.

According to the Department of Public Works, there were flaws in the contractor's methods, including cracking observed on an adjacent roadway during the retrofit work.

"Despite being notified of the damage caused by its procedures, the contractor refused to adjust its operations," a county memo said. The county alleged that the contractor abandoned the site "without ensuring the safety of the bridge," and county crews had to install timber supports to protect the bridge.

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