City threatens to cancel contract for multi-million dollar traffic center if problems linger

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before Honolulu's new Joint Traffic Management Center (JTMC) can combat gridlock, it needs to over come roadblocks of its own.

The city says numerous mistakes made by the general contractor of the $53.6 million project resulted in time-consuming delays. Now, city officials are threatening to terminate their contract if corrections aren't made immediately.

A default notice was sent to Watts Constructors on Monday.

Donna Leong, the city's corporation counsel, says over the last year, they have issued more than 90 non-compliant reports to Watts, detailing all of the deficiencies with the $53.6 million project.

She says, to date, about 80-percent of the mistakes remain uncorrected.

"The level of frustration as you can imagine has risen, and we felt that there was a need to issue a default to them and put them on official notice that they need to cure the defaults," said Leong.

The three story facility -- at the corner of King and Alapai Streets -- is the future hub for both city and state traffic management services, as well as a dispatch center for first responders.

The default notice identifies these defaults, among others, under the construction contract:

  • Watts incorrectly installed the roofing, which may have contributed to water infiltration into the JTMC.
  • Watts did not install the weather resistant barrier ("WRB") behind the exterior metal panels and failed to water test the WRB, which may have contributed to water infiltration into the JTMC.
  • Watts incorrectly installed the lobby glass walls (the "curtain wall") assembly and the parapet walls.
  • Watts failed to have certified welders perform the structural welds for the curtain wall.
  • Watts failed to install access flooring in accordance with the construction specifications, shop drawings, and manufacturer's installation procedures, thus compromising the structural integrity of the flooring.
  • Watts failed to construct the fire escape stairways in accordance with construction specifications.

"The ultimate consequence is that this is going to be a structure that's not going to be able to be occupied," Leong said.

Meanwhile, Watts' general manager says these problems aren't hard to fix.

"There's nothing that's non-conforming that I would term as a major structural defect that could cause any harm," said Gennaro Dinola, general manager for Watts Constructors.

Watts is now required under contract to start making these corrections within seven days of receiving the default notice, otherwise the city could terminate its contract.

If that happens, the city can call on Watts' performance bond to complete the project.

Dinola says they take responsibility for the delays, and he says his team has been working to put together corrective action plans for all the deficiencies.

"Whether it costs us twice as much, we will not walk away from our obligations. We never failed to complete a job. We've never got terminated," Dinola said.

The city broke ground on the facility back in April 2015.

City officials had been eying fall of 2019 for the opening, but it's still unclear how these new delays will affect the timeline.

The city is contributing $15.8 million to the project. The Federal Highway Administration is providing the remaining $37.8 million towards the contract.

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