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Council Learns of Concourse Delays

Unable to find utilities under Duke Street cited as major reason.

Construction of the Duke Street Concourse is behind schedule and the city will not issue any new certificates of occupancy to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office until the concourse is completed.

"I want everyone to understand that we are behind schedule by 10 or 11 days,” City Manager Philip G. Sunderland told the members of City Council at Tuesday’s meeting. “We believe that the contractor can make up the time and that the concourse will be completed by June 30, but it is important for you to understand that we are currently behind schedule.”

Richard Baier, the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services explained, “We are behind because we did not find the utilities where we thought they were,” he said. “The water line was not where it was and it took us several days to find it and we also had difficulty finding a gas line. They have been located and the remainder of the process is within the contractor’s control, so I think everything should be fine from this point forward.”

Bill Cox, the president and co-owner of Corman Construction, the contractor on the project, agreed. “The utility problem was beyond our control,” Cox said. “Now that we are not dealing with subcontractors, we are committed to completing this work on time and hopefully, early.”

The concourse is a tunnel that will carry people from the King Street Metro stop across Duke Street to the PTO offices. It was scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, 2003.

“I just want to make sure that this tunnel is completed before we issue any further certificates of occupancy to the Patent and Trademark Office,” said Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper.

Councilwoman Joyce Woodson made a motion to receive monthly written reports on the progress of the construction of the tunnel and to decide what action to take, including the withholding of certificates of occupancy, should the project not be on target by the May 25, City Council meeting.

“This is a month before the tunnel is scheduled to be finished and we should know by then whether it is going to be finished or not,” Woodson said.

Pepper made a substitute motion. “I just don’t think this is enough and I think we should tell them now that we aren’t going to allow any more people to move in until this tunnel is finished,” she said.

Council members Andrew Macdonald and Ludwig Gaines supported her substitute motion. “While Councilwoman Woodson’s motion is palatable, I don’t think it goes far enough,” Gaines said.

COUNCIL MEMBERS Rob Krupicka and Paul Smedberg, along with Mayor William D. Euille, supported Woodson’s motion. “While it is extremely important that this tunnel be built and it will be built by June 30, it is also important for us to move forward and find ways to bring the people of the PTO into the city family,” Krupicka said.

Krupicka also asked for reports on the mitigation factors that are already in place until the tunnel is built.

“We have had no traffic or pedestrian accidents because the police are there to assist at peak hours,” Baier said. “Also, people are riding the shuttle bus from the Metro station to the PTO campus. The most riders we have had is about 150 a day and we hope that more people will take advantage of this service.

"The Carlyle Development Corporation is spending between $3,800 and $4,200 a day on mitigation measures. This will amount to over a half million dollars by June 30, so I think we have their attention.”

The only thing that could create a problem is a WMATA contract to connect the tunnel with the north side of the street into the Metro station.

“WMATA is interviewing prospective contractors later this month and has committed to awarding that contract shortly after the interviews,” Sunderland said. “That is within the time frame that we agreed to last fall. If, in a month, WMATA has not awarded the contract, then we could have a problem. We will stay on top of this and let you know.”

The next milestone that must be met is on Feb. 17 and the final milestone on March 29. After that, the WMATA work will finish the project, which is scheduled to open on June 30.