GRAND RAPIDS — The last 15 miles of M-6, also known as the South Beltline and the Paul B. Henry Freeway, will be built under a seven-year warranty program.
The Michigan Department of Transportation revealed recently that construction on the highway’s longest and final leg, which stretches west from M-37 to I-196 in Ottawa County, would be covered by the project’s prime contractor for seven years after it’s opened.
“The road-building industry in Michigan does great work, so guaranteeing what they do shouldn’t be much of a risk,” said MDOT Director Gregory Rosine.
“Few of us want to take on more risk, but even fewer of us want to buy a product that a manufacturer won’t stand behind 100 percent,” added Rosine.
The pavement, of course, is covered under the warranty and if a problem develops with it during the warranty period the contractor has to make the necessary repairs for free.
“That includes not just the pavement’s surface that they were laying down, but also what we refer to as the sub-base, meaning the sand, the gravel and anything else put under there and the drainage,” said Ari Adler, MDOT director of communications.
“Anything they’re using to build up to the pavement, as well as the pavement itself.”
Adler said the warranty holds the prime contractor responsible to the state. The prime contractor, however, can enter into a separate agreement with another road builder, who, in turn, would be responsible to the prime contractor for any warranty work.
He added that the state doesn’t enter into agreements with subcontractors on a project because a contract can then get too complicated, and because MDOT hasn’t done business that way in the past.
“The road-building industry has also wanted us to avoid doing that in the past. Their relationships need to stay intact and we don’t need to get our fingers into that,” said Adler.
But the Michigan Road Builders Association and other trade groups aren’t terribly fond of these warranties. Last spring, a coalition of road-building associations announced their intention to file a lawsuit against MDOT over two projects in the southwestern sector of the state because of the warranties written into the work plans.
The coalition later suspended that action after the State Transportation Commission told MDOT to work more closely with the road builders.
“They’re not happy overall. I think that they think that the warranty probably goes a little too far,” said Adler. “But we went at it from the standpoint that we need to ensure the investment that we’re making.”
Adler emphasized that the warranty program isn’t in place because MDOT thinks the road builders aren’t doing a good job, and that the state is trying to hold them to a higher performance standard.
“They are doing good work. But we just want to make sure that they’re paying careful attention to everything that they’re doing, both the contractors and the subcontractors,” he added.
M-6, being built at a cost of $400 million, was one of three highway projects that MDOT announced were under warranty. A portion of U.S. 12 in western Wayne County and a stretch of M-84 in Bay and Saginaw counties were the other two.
M-6 is slated to be finished in 2005. The first five-mile leg of the 20-mile expressway, which is open, is not under warranty.