Monday, October 02, 2006

What Happened to Contractor Accountability?

This summer when the Kennedy Expressway was being resurfaced, the contractor scraped off the top layer of pavement and left sewer covers sticking up several inches without building small asphalt ramps around them. That makes for a bumpy ride on a city street, but at highway speeds it causes dangerous blowouts. IDOT tow trucks responded to more than 70 calls for tire and wheel damage, and no one knows how many more motorists exited the expressway and sought repairs on their own. Frankly, it is pure luck that someone wasn't killed by an out-of-control vehicle. Today's outrageous follow-up story should be getting lots of attention:
Illinois taxpayers will cover tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to vehicles that sustained tire and wheel damage due to exposed sewer covers during the Kennedy Expressway resurfacing project this summer, state transportation officials say. The decision by the Illinois Department of Transportation takes Plote Construction Inc. off the hook financially, even though IDOT determined that the Chicago-area road-builder was responsible for creating the hazard.
So the contractor was at fault, but we have to pay for their negligence? Surely there must be a good reason. An IDOT spokesman helpfully explained:
Because of the high-profile nature of this case, IDOT wanted to make an extra effort to monitor the [claims] process and make sure everyone gets all their questions answered and gets all the assistance they need.
In other words, "We know the contractor screwed up, but we can't trust them to make it right so we'll just pay for it ourselves." What the hell is going on here? The proper response would have been for IDOT to administer the claims and charge them back to Plote Construction. I can only hope that Plote is penalized in some way, or better yet, barred from any IDOT contracts. Otherwise, this sets an alarming precedent.

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