THE Ohio Department of Transportation should not succumb to pressure from the contractor to speed up completion of the Veteran's Glass City Skyway.
If anything, the construction mishaps that already have claimed the lives of four workers and slowed progreess on the $220 million bridge requre that safety - not speed - be the primary consideration.
In order to move the project toward completion by the end of this year, the contractor, Fru-Con Construction Co., wants to keep I-280 closed to traffic beyond May 7. If not, the bridge won't be done until sometime early in 2007. The original completion date was to be Oct. 31, 2006.
The underlying reason for Fru-Con's request to keep I-280 closed longer is that the contractor faces a $10,000 penalty, with allowance for extreme weather, for each day past May 16 that traffic remains blocked. If the entire project isn't finished by Dec. 23, the penalty is $20,000 per day.
The penalties were written into the bridge contract to assure that construction moved according to schedule. The deadlines should be relaxed only if ODOT can assure the public that safety will not be compromised in any fashion during the final months of work.
Construction on the Maumee River crossing began in March, 2002, and was cruising along 14 months ahead of schedule - at a pace to win Fru-Con a $4.3 million bonus - when tragedy intervened on Feb. 16, 2004. That was when a gantry crane that lifted concrete roadway segments into place collapsed, killing four workers and injuring four others.
Hours after work resumed on Oct. 23, 2004, a winch cable snapped, dropping the support leg of another crane onto a catwalk below. No one was hurt that time, but, in each incident, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration placed the blame on Fru-Con. Fru-Con, in turn, blamed the Italian firm that made the cranes. Work was halted for 16 months in all.
So it's incumbent upon ODOT officials to ensure that safety is not sacrificed in order to meet the original completion deadline, especially if a prime consideration is to allow the contractor to escape penalties.
Four workers already have lost their lives on Toledo's largest-evter construction project. Four too many.