With just two months to go before light-rail trains begin rumbling down the Green Line connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis, construction work on the nearly $1 billion project was supposed to be complete. The key words here: supposed to be.
On Monday, crews blocked off Vandalia Street at University Avenue to begin the unexpected task of tearing up and replacing damaged concrete panels at 11 intersections along the 11-mile route. The work will disrupt and reroute traffic from April 14 through mid-May, according to the Metropolitan Council.
This was not how this project was supposed to proceed, just 59 days from its scheduled June 14 grand opening. As a result, Walsh Construction of Chicago — and not the Met Council or taxpayers — is footing the bill, said Laura Baenen, a spokeswoman for the Central Light Rail Corridor project.
"The work was faulty," Baenen said Monday.
When asked what could have caused the concrete to crack at so many locations, Baenen said: "There are too many variables to know what it was. It should not have cracked this quickly. It is their [Walsh's] responsibility to fix it."
When asked about the expected repair cost, she said: "It doesn't matter. It is their responsibility to fix it."
Several calls to Walsh Construction's Chicago office seeking comment were not returned as of late Monday afternoon.
Baenen said the work will be done in time for the line's opening. Crews are expected to work 10 to 12 hours a day, Monday through Saturday, to complete the work as soon as possible. Bus stops and sidewalks may be temporarily closed or relocated during the repairs. Some roads will be restricted and others detoured during the five weeks it will take to finish.
The cracks were discovered during a visual inspection of the route, Baenen said. Intersections at Hampden Avenue, Vandalia, Prior Avenue, Fry Street, Snelling Avenue, Pascal Street, Griggs Street, Lexington Avenue, Grotto Street, Dale Street and Rice Street will be affected. Work will be staggered so consecutive intersections will not be affected at the same time, Baenen said.
On Monday, as Vandalia traffic was detoured away from University and University traffic crawled along a single lane in each direction, bartender Aaron Branum at the Dubliner Pub just shook his head and smiled.
The Dubliner, like several other businesses at the corner, "took a hit" during light-rail construction and the loss of parking along University, Branum said.
"We were fortunate that we have our own parking lot out back," he said of the lost on-street parking and many months of restricted traffic. "But this should have been over months ago. Enough's enough."
Baenen was asked in a later e-mail if the discovery of the cracked concrete so close to when the Central Corridor is scheduled to open means officials will be looking for other damage down the line. "Construction work ended in 2012, and initial inspection of all construction work has been completed," she responded.