The nearly $11 million project to repair and overlay the pavement on US 87/287 between Dumas and the Potter County line is in a state of limbo. Work on the project is at a standstill, and the partially-finished roadway is deteriorating in the winter weather, leaving motorists to deal with a rough and, at times, dangerous ride.
"I think that they are still talking about ways to remedy the situation, and by that … I mean looking at what direction we are going to take to complete this project in a responsible manner," said Sonja Gross, Public Information Officer, Amarillo District of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). "I just know we will not be moving forward with the original contractor."
The contractor, Highway Contractors, Inc. of Guymon Oklahoma, missed a deadline to come up with a plan to complete the project and defaulted. "We have gone through the default process, and it is now the surety's responsibility to complete the work," said Gross. "While we wait on their plan of action, our in-house crews are working to smooth out some of those uneven lanes and make pavement repairs." Gross says that given the default process, TxDOT does not have an estimated completion date for the project at this time.
The circumstances that led Highway Contractors, Inc. to default are not entirely clear. Efforts to reach company officials at the telephone number listed on the TxDOT Project Tracker were unsuccessful.
The highway between Dumas and the Potter County line has been under construction for several months. (During an overlay project, workers apply up to two inches of new asphalt over the existing road surface.) With the extreme temperature shifts this winter and the relentless traffic on the unfinished pavement, driving conditions have deteriorated on the highway to a state where some motorists have reported vehicle damage. The highway is rough and unfinished looking. One of the worst areas is on the north-bound highway near the bridge over Blue Creek just outside Dumas, where large potholes have developed.
Gross says department officials are aware of the pot holes and are taking steps to fix them. First, TxDOT workers have to finish "spreading the brine" on area roads in anticipation of more winter weather in the next few days. "There in the Dumas area, particularly on 87 (287) south of Dumas, all those pot holes … we should have crews out there this afternoon (Monday), after they get the brining responsibility out of the way. ... Now, obviously pot hole repairs is just that. It is patch and repair. It is not a fix, so it is not going to be a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination, but, at least until we can get out there and do what needs to be done, with the overlay, it will be a quick fix. In this kind of weather … there is a lot of shifting going on, and that is what makes these pot holes appear and grow so rapidly. When you have such drastic changes in the temperature, it really contributes to a problem none of us like."
Gross says pot holes this time of year are inevitable and people should "keep their eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel, so that you can dodge them if at all possible." "Make sure that if you are maneuvering around them you are not getting in someone else's lane of traffic when you do it. Slow down if you have to, especially when you know they are coming up." She says people need to report potholes. "Usually we are aware of them and will get to them as soon as we can, but not necessarily, so make us aware of them so we can address them," she said.