South Terminal project behind schedule at MIA, official says
By Dan Dolan
Miami International Airport's $1 billion South Terminal project is behind schedule again — and the terminal may not open this year — because contractors haven't put enough workers on the job, aviation officials told county commissioners last week.
During a meeting of the county commission's transportation committee, Aviation Director Jose Abréu said general contractor Parsons-Odebrecht Joint Venture is months away from completing the terminal, which was scheduled to be done this summer after years of delay.
"At the earliest, we're now looking at an October completion date," Mr. Abréu said. "And if we don't get more people working out there, we won't finish this year."
To meet construction deadlines, 1,500 people must be working on the job site every day, Mr. Abréu said. But contractors have had an average 600 workers on the job, he said. Recently, there have been only 400 people working the site, he said.
Mr. Abréu said he's put a senior staffer on site to try to light a fire under the builders, who he said have put 23 new supervisors on the job. But "the people actually erecting the bricks aren't there," he said.
Contractors have said Miami-Dade is facing a shortage of skilled construction labor that makes it hard to hire workers needed to fully staff the site. But Mr. Abréu said money, not manpower, is the real issue. He contends contractors are dragging their feet because they haven't been paid.
"They say, "You don't pay so we don't come,'" Mr. Abréu said. "But we can't pay them because they haven't met the milestones for project completion and payments that are spelled out in our contract. We're talking millions of dollars here."
Builders argue the delays aren't their fault. They say changes in project details have stalled work.
John Cosper, deputy director of the county aviation department, said county-ordered changes have slowed construction. However, he said, many of the changes were the result of contractors' work. The dispute could end up in court, he said.
To keep contractors working, the county may soon be forced to cough up cash even though project milestones haven't been met, said Mr. Cosper, who heads his department's capital-improvement projects. County Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Dennis Moss and Dorrin Rolle balked at the idea.
"This project is the entire critical path for the whole airport," Mr. Abréu said. "We need to get this done so we can close other areas of the airport to give landside access to the North Terminal."
Mr. Abréu said he's still trying to persuade Parsons-Odebrecht to accept changes to its contract for the $2.6 billion North Terminal that would let the county off the hook for future cost overruns. He said he hopes to have that deal finalized by next month.
"We're taking a licking out there," Mr. Rolle said.