The Colorado Department of Transportation this week sued the lead contractors on the C-470 Express Lanes project over delays that stretched construction work more than a year past the original deadline.
Express lanes have been charging tolls for nearly two years in the expanded 12.5-mile section of the state highway in Douglas and Jefferson counties, and construction is long complete. But CDOT’s lawsuit, filed Monday in Denver District Court, alleges that the Flatiron/AECOM contracting team — which has been embroiled in internal legal disputes for nearly three years — still hasn’t fully wrapped up project management work.
Three years ago, in early August 2019, mounting delays prompted CDOT to issue a notice of default to the contractors. That step cleared the way for the charging of daily liquidated damages as construction limped along.
For now, CDOT’s lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, but the figure is likely to be significant since the delays set back when express lane tolling could begin by a year or more.
Since toll revenues were pledged to pay for just over half of the $276 million project, the suit says the delays threatened to jeopardize some of its financing, noting that they resulted in a negative rating for revenue bonds.
“CDOT agreed to extend the deadline for project completion on numerous occasions to accommodate F|A’s various cited reasons for being unable to complete the C-470 Project, to no avail,” the lawsuit’s opening summary says about the project team. “F|A made continual, bad-faith misrepresentations about when F|A was able to achieve the deadlines for project completion.”
The lawsuit lodges breach-of-contract claims against the contractors and a claim against the project performance bond, made against the contractors and seven insurance companies that also are named as defendants.
The C-470 project began construction in 2016. The contract originally targeted February 2019 for final completion. The new toll lanes finally opened for testing in June 2020, about 16 months later, with tolling beginning in August 2020.
Attempts to reach Broomfield-based Flatiron Construction and Dallas-based AECOM, which provided design and engineering services for the project, were not immediately successful Tuesday. Their joint contract was worth $204 million.
Flatiron and AECOM separately have been locked in litigation over claims between the two companies that stem from the project since AECOM sued Flatiron in late 2019. Their contractual disputes are set for mediation next month, according to recent filings in U.S. District Court in Denver.
CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo said that while construction is done on the C-470 project, the state hasn’t been able to reach the final acceptance step of the contract. The biggest remaining requirement is for Flatiron to confirm that no outstanding project disputes or claims remain, he said.