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New Orleans - September 2011

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New Orleans — Tie Replacement Resumes

Rail Transit Online, September 2011

A project to replace deteriorated wood ties on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line that stopped abruptly when the contractor abandoned the $7-million job without explanation has resumed using the same firm.

According to Regional Transit Authority, last spring Smith Railway Services Inc. began making excuses why it couldn't complete the work, giving multiple reasons before walking away. On April 28, after preparatory work had begun along Carrollton Avenue, Smith sent a letter to the RTA seeking to cancel the deal even as the transit agency issued a breach of contract notice. A surety bond protected the RTA, which at first considered whether to sign an agreement with the second lowest bidder or re-advertise the project. In addition, the surety company could have proposed a solution or given the transit agency a cash settlement.

For reasons that are not clear, negotiations among the three parties resulted in Smith being allowed to return to work but only on the $1.3 million first phase from the line's outer end to the Riverbend area. A new management team took over and the job is reportedly running smoothly, with streetcar service being maintained by single tracking. RTA officials are considering extending Smith's contract to the remainder of the approximately 13-mi. (20.9 km) line after phase 1 is completed in December.

The wood ties were last replaced in 1988 but have begun deteriorating from the effects of termite infestation and rot caused by New Orleans' hot, humid climate. This time, a recycled rubber-plastic composite material is being used instead of wood.


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