State transportation officials demand millions of dollars from contractor for faulty asphalt

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 28, 2015) – State transportation officials are seeking millions of dollars from one of its contractors, accusing the company of using faulty asphalt.

“It was an entirely new road,” Will Wingfield said, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Transportation. “It was supposed to last 20 years.”

But just three years after construction was complete, INDOT said a three-mile stretch of State Road 25 in Cass County is crumbling and showing signs of deterioration.

Deputy Commissioner Robert Tally sent a letter Friday to Fort Wayne-based Brooks Construction, demanding the company repay $5.1 million or replace and repair that stretch of roadway.

“With this road deteriorating at an alarming rate and with winter approaching, INDOT must move to resolution on this matter,” Tally said in the letter.

The company has been given until Friday to respond. INDOT officials add negotiations have been ongoing for more than 10 months without resolve.

“We do not believe what they committed to us as part of their mix design was what was provided on site,” Wingfield said.

John Brooks, executive vice president of Brooks Construction, said in a statement the family owned business takes “tremendous pride” in its quality of work.

“During this project, INDOT conducted 72 tests on our asphalt mix and all were approved,” Brooks said in the statement. “We complied with all INDOT specifications at the time of the construction.”

Brooks Construction won the $16 million federally-funded project and completed the work in 2012.

“Obviously the feds want to make sure they’re getting the value for what they’re paying as well,” Wingifeld said.

The action is the first major move for INDOT after it was revealed transportation officials are reviewing 188 projects statewide, totaling $71 million and involving 44 different contractors, including Brooks Construction.

The concern is bad asphalt mixture will crumble roads years ahead of schedule.

“Some contractors feel there’s plenty lack of communication to go around,” State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) said. “And others are fairly silent.”

INDOT has not made public the other specific projects or contractors, citing the ongoing review.

The testing could spark a contentious battle between the two as lawmakers are set to begin a fierce debate over transportation funding.

Soliday said he’s backing INDOT’s review.

“Are our standards adequate and do they need to be modified, and were contractors following those standards that were there?” he said.

In response to the action, Gov. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) said in a statement, “Taxpayers in Indiana deserve to get what they pay for from contractors serving the state. With today’s action, Hoosiers can be assured that our administration will hold those who do business with the state of Indiana accountable for the products and services they agreed to provide.”

Late Monday, the state Democratic party again called for an internal investigation.

“Governor Pence decided to put the blame on the contractor who – after receiving the green light over 72 times from the state – was simply doing its job,” Drew Anderson said, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party.

INDOT officials said the review of the 188 projects is expected to take months.

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