YOUNGSVILLE — City officials say they will have to take another stab at patching a section of Chemin Metairie Parkway that had been slated for repairs in January because inaccurate cost estimates threw the project off budget.
Repairs to the fast-failing 7-year-old road have been delayed because an engineering company’s faulty math underestimated the temporary fix’s true cost, according to city officials.
“It’s been a comedy of errors, really,” Mayor Ken Ritter said last week.
Ritter and four of the city’s five council members are completing their first weeks on the job. Like the council and mayor before them, much of their time has been consumed by the question of how to repair, even temporarily, the 2.6-mile section of Chemin Metairie phase I, which runs from La. 92 to La. 89. A recent inspection found the road is failing more rapidly than anyone realized.
At a special meeting Jan. 29, the City Council declared a public emergency to get out of its contract with highway builder Diamond B Construction.
Diamond B had signed a contract with the city to patch the road’s sinking sections. The company was to perform the job using an amount of asphalt calculated by Fenstermaker, a Lafayette-based engineering company that until December designed projects for Youngsville. Fenstermaker also employed the city’s engineer, Dax Douet.
Using a Fenstermaker job sheet that showed 640 cubic yards of asphalt would be needed to patch the holes, Diamond B agreed to do the job for $82,000. However, when new city engineer Pamela Gonzales-Granger started adding up the asphalt Fenstermaker had itemized throughout its job report, she noticed that the asphalt needs had not been added correctly, Ritter said.
Instead of 640 cubic yards of asphalt, the job would need 1,587 cubic yards, an addition that vaulted the project past the $150,000 threshold set by the state for non bid contracts.
“The difference between 640 and 1,587 was just a mathematical error,” Ritter said. “They didn’t do their worksheet properly.”
Then, after the adding error was discovered, Gonzales-Granger inspected the phase I section of Chemin Metairie again and found new failures. Ritter said it was an indication the road is sinking faster than anyone believed.
New estimates show 2,400 cubic yards of asphalt will be needed to patch the holes, he said.
Ritter said he hopes to have enough information by Thursday’s regular council meeting to pass a new contract.
Completed in 2007, phase I Chemin Metairie has been both a headache and economic boon to Youngsville. Winding past upscale Sugar Mill Pond residences, the new Youngsville Sports Complex and new businesses that are emerging monthly, much of Youngsville’s growing economy is attributed to Chemin Metairie phase I.
But phase I was built on the cheap in the mid-2000s. Because Youngsville at the time didn’t have the $12 million it needed to lay down a solid 9 inches of asphalt, it spent less than $6 million for a road that used 4 inches of asphalt. It started sinking immediately after its 2007 completion. The temporary fixes have continued ever since.
Douet, who did not return a message left at his office Friday, said at a finger-pointing council meeting in August that Youngsville knew early on that Chemin Metairie phase I would not have the 20-year design life that $12 million would have paid for.
“At the end of the day, we all want a Cadillac project, but we couldn’t afford that,” Douet said then. He also said the road has been further damaged by heavy-load trucks — cane trucks, dump trucks, 18-wheelers — that account for traffic that was not foreseen during its design.
One estimate for a permanent repair of phase I came in last year at more than $3 million.
When the city built phase II, designed by Fenstermaker and completed in 2013, Youngsville had enough money for a better road: $12 million to lay down 10 inches of concrete over 2 miles. So far there have been no problems with phase II, which connects to U.S. 90.
Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tempore Diane McClelland, the only veteran on the Youngsville council, said last week the current council is getting more answers than past councils did.
“We asked questions for a year. … We’ve been asking the same questions over and over and not getting the answers that we need,” she said.
“I really feel confident, pretty much for the first time since this road failed, that we’re on the right track,” McClelland said.