What we think: New bypass date isn't convincing

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By The Staff

We were pleased to read last week that state transportation officials now believe the Shelbyville Bypass likely will be completed by Labor Day of 2010.

We would not have believed that forecast if it had come from the project’s contractors, Kay And Kay Contracting. That company’s owner – Bill Robinson – told us in August that its work was about 80 percent complete.

And we now know that state officials assess the project reached that 80 percent level as of Nov. 30, when work stopped for its contracted winter hiatus, and that Kay and Kay worked another 55 days after Mr. Robinson’s assessment.

You can see why we are skeptical about that proposed completion date. The notion of it seems a bit sunny.

You may recall that this infamous “working days” contract generously allowed Kay And Kay 486 days to complete by the bypass and gave the company total control of when it worked. Yes, we now know that could have been one working day for 486 years, but we won’t drive down that old, bumpy road of illogic. State officials have admitted that sin.

But let’s do review the math on that company’s progress:

  • From May 2006, when ground was broken, to April 1, 2009, when the project resumed for what transportation officials said in March would be its year of completion, Kay and Kay had worked 310 days against its contract.
  • On July 15, when The Sentinel-News first started to investigate why the project was stuck in the mud, Kay and Kay had worked another 27 days against its contract. Those 337 days were roughly 1 working day out of 3 calendar days since ground was broken, though we recognize that weekends, holidays, winter break and inclement weather are not eligible work days.
  • From April 1, when work resumed in 2009, to Aug, 6, when Mr. Robinson offered his optimistic evaluation, contractors had charged 32 days against the contract.
  • From Aug. 6 to Dec. 1 – when the contract-required winter rest period began – it charged another 55.

Don’t try to add all those numbers, but please understand that that the bottom line to the equation is this:

In all of 2009, Kay and Kay charged 87 days against its contract, and, based on state officials’ calculations, starting next April 1, the company has 89 working days remaining – roughly 19 percent, hence the estimate on progress – and that should wrap it up by Labor Day.

Read that again: The company has more days remaining on its contract than it logged in 2009.

Do we really believe that come next Labor Day elected officials will stand somewhere along those 4.5 miles and cut a ribbon that would allow cars and trucks an easier route around Shelbyville?

Even if that date were to come true, since the bypass project began, we would have conceived, designed, built, rezoned and – finally – populated an entire 5-year school campus. We nearly would have completed a new judicial center. Interstate 64 would have undergone a major expansion between Simpsonville and Middletown.

We wouldn’t be surprised if a new theater/convention complex was under way, given the way Leon Mooneyhan is moving that concept along.

And we may have turned over one whole cycle of elected officials, depending on how the primaries and general elections line up, which means some of those who spaded the first dirt for the bypass may not be here to snip its ribbon of completion.

The state’s estimates, as you can see, are based simply on contract math spiced with educated guesswork. The only person who really know when this road will be open is the guy who is doing the paving and drawing the paychecks: Mr. Robinson of Kay and Kay.

And, just as was the case before state Rep. Brad Montell, state Sen. Gary Tapp and transportation officials required him to do so in August, he isn’t talking.

In his only statement about his company’s work, Mr. Robinson said this: “We just want this project done and over with.”

Amen, brother, amen. Lord help us if we have monsoons again.

We are left with what we see as the only really accurate view of when we believe this bypass will be “done and over with:”

If Kay and Kay takes more than 486 days to complete the roadway, it will be fined $3,000 per day for each one exceeding 486.

That’s potent, and thus we believe that 486 will be the magic number.

We’re just not sold yet on which year it will be reached.

But it feels like we all may wind up April (2011) fools.