Some Criticize Company Likely Taking Over Mixmaster Project

The contract to repair the aging Mixmaster in downtown Waterbury may be awarded to a company with past safety issues in Connecticut.

Repairing the Mixmaster, which connects Interstate 84 and Route 8 in downtown Waterbury, will not be cheap. The lowest qualified bid received by the State Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is over $150 million from Chicago-based Walsh Construction Company. Federal law requires projects such as the Mixmaster, which will receive federal funding, to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.

Walsh Construction Co., in a joint venture with PCL Civil Constructors, was the lead contractor on the Moses Wheeler Bridge expansion. There, a string of safety incidents, including two cranes tipping over, forced the CTDOT to temporarily suspend them from the project.

The companies were reinstated after revamping their safety program. Walsh Construction Co. has since completed work on the Pearl Harbor Memorial bridge, also known as the Q bridge in New Haven and the CTDOT said they are qualified to bid on the Mixmaster project.

Don Shubert, the President of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said Walsh Construction Co. is well-established in Connecticut and an active member of their association. He said the CTDOT has rigorous safety requirements for contractors and that the state is aggressive about enforcing them and asking for detailed safety plans.

Shubert added that construction is a dangerous business, but said, "we have plenty of confidence in them operating in Connecticut."

In a statement, the CTDOT said they utilize the highest industry standards and have a multi-layered system of oversight and accountability that begins before a project is even awarded to a contractor.

The CTDOT has not yet announced if Walsh will win the Mixmaster project. The second lowest bidder, Torrington-based O&G Industries also has prior safety concerns. Six of their workers died in the 2010 explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown.

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