Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) has been actively investigating the allegations of willful, non-conforming construction services by contractor J.A. McDonald, Inc. The allegations pertain to two bridges constructed by the company in Bennington on Route 279 and two bridges on I-91 in Guilford. The investigation has corroborated the allegations and has confirmed that there are no immediate safety concerns. However, the bridges’ longevity will be affected.
The agency has said that J.A. McDonald is no longer eligible to work on new AOT projects or on projects using AOT grant funds. The company has also been made aware of the state’s intent to pursue legal recourse.
“Safety is the number-one concern of this agency and has been our top concern in this matter,” said transportation secretary Joe Flynn. “While there is no immediate public safety concern, the agency will aggressively investigate any actions that allegedly violate our contracts, threaten the integrity of our infrastructure, or undermine the public trust.”
Immediately following the whistleblower complaints, AOT bridge engineers evaluated the structures and determined there were no immediate public safety concerns. In addition, AOT hired an engineering consultant to carry out further reviews and analysis. The engineers used ground-penetrating radar and ultrasonic tests in addition to visual examinations. The agency has concluded the affected bridges will remain safe for full traffic capacity. However, the construction practices, which were confirmed only after invasive testing of the structures, will affect longevity.
Additional oversight will take place on two projects that J.A. McDonald is currently working on for the state. Both contracts were awarded prior to confirmation of the allegations and neither includes the type of construction involved in the bridge projects.