CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval on Monday expressed frustration over what will likely be a multi-month delay on the Boulder City bypass project because of the surprise discovery of naturally occurring asbestos in the construction zone.
Sandoval, chairman of the board of directors of the state Transportation Department, said the state is losing time and seeing costs rise for the state’s portion of the bypass.
The board, which reviewed the project at its monthly meeting, also learned that an asbestos sampling contract with the firm Tetra Tech will cost $100,000 more than estimated and now totals $500,000. The testing, which will assess whether the asbestos could potentially affect the project, won’t be completed until August. The contract runs through 2018 and could cost less if the entire amount is not expended.
“So nothing is going to happen on this project until August?” Sandoval asked.
“Probably not,” replied John Terry, assistant director for engineering with the agency.
Sandoval was also frustrated that the knowledge of the existence of the asbestos came in late November, and the contract to perform the testing was only now up for a vote to move forward.
“I’m really troubled with where we are right now,” he said.
The board reluctantly voted to approve the contract despite questions about why the state did not piggyback on testing being performed by a different consultant hired by the Clark County Regional Transportation Commission.
After the meeting Sandoval said he remains hopeful that the assessment won’t affect the construction timeline, which is set to begin in October.
“It is still possible that we will get all the findings from the consultants and be able to commence construction on time,” he said.
Two UNLV professors lead the research that identified the presence of the asbestos. Their peer-reviewed study published in November’s journal of the Soil Science Society of America described the surprise discovery of potentially toxic, asbestos-type minerals in rocks and dust from Boulder City to the southeastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.
The Boulder City bypass is a priority for state officials. Phase 1 has an estimated completion date of late 2017 to early 2018 and is under the control of the state Transportation Department. The second phase would run south of Boulder City and east to the Hoover Dam bypass bridge and is under the oversight of the Regional Transportation Commission. Total project costs are expected to top $600 million.
Sandoval also asked why the cost is so much more than similar work being done for the RTC on its portion of the bypass. The RTC hired Kleinfelder Inc. to perform 200 tests along the bypass right-of-way at a cost of $259,000. Those results are due to the RTC in May.
Sandoval and board member Tom Skancke asked why the state Transportation Department did not piggyback on the Kleinfelder contract for the testing on its part of the bypass project.
Terry said the idea was considered but ultimately rejected.
He also said the contract with Tetra Tech is costing more because there are more responsibilities, including an assessment of whether additional environmental documentation will be needed to address the asbestos issue.
Sandoval also expressed concern about what will happen if the results from the two separate contractors are contradictory. If there is a conflict when the reports are completed, there is going to be a problem, he said.
The main issue with asbestos will be dust control for the road project.
Sandoval said he decided to approve the Tetra Tech contract to ensure that any potential public safety issues are addressed in the review.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.