By Ryan Kath, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Everywhere you turn, or try to turn, it seems like there’s a road or bridge under construction.

Although it is necessary to keep that infrastructure in working order, the detours and gridlock that comes with that work can be frustrating for drivers. And if a project misses its estimated time of completion, local businesses feel the impact.

John Stournaras owns Niko’s Family Pizzeria in Framingham which is right next to the Central Avenue Bridge. It has been closed for months and was supposed to open before school started. Business is down about 20%. “People think twice about coming to this area, because of the traffic backups and detours.”

The I-Team examined state records and found many projects across the state have not met their deadline.

Some are high profile, like the Longfellow Bridge, which connects Boston and Cambridge. State officials recently announced that project will require two additional years to finish.

Construction on Longfellow Bridge (WBZ-TV)

Construction on Longfellow Bridge (WBZ-TV)

The Route 9 and Oak Street interchange in Natick seems to have been abandoned although that job isn’t complete. Local business owner Joe Doyle said it is costing him money. “It is just taking twice as long as it should.”

The I-Team asked the state’s highway administrator, Tom Tinlin, if the state’s Department of Transportation is spreading itself too thin. Tinlin said no, adding, “I think that the need dictates the schedule.”

The I-Team found that last year, MassDOT completed 67% of projects on time. In 2011, the rate was 78%.

“There are a lot of surprises when you do these complex jobs, but anything less than 100% is unacceptable,” explained Tinlin.

Each state measures their on time completion rate differently so there is no universal standard. The I-Team check several other states to get a general indication of how Massachusetts compares.

In Maine, road work is completed on time 90% of the time. Florida and North Carolina have rates of 87%. In Georgia, it’s 76%.

Mary Connaughton, currently with the Pioneer Institute but formerly on the board of directors for the Massachusetts Turnpike, said “We should expect better performance here in Massachusetts.”

Connaughton dismissed the notion that construction problems are harder to anticipate here because many of the roads and bridges are so old.

When asked if that should be part of the planning process, Connaughton emphatically said yes. “Sure we have issues. Every city has its own complexities that it has to deal with for construction, but the key is adequate planning.”

The potential negative impact goes beyond a single pizza shop in Framingham. Connaughton believes businesses look at these performance records and might use that date to decide Massachusetts isn’t a good place to move or expand. “If they measure our performance with on time completion versus other states, it is going to ultimately impact the economy in some way.”

Tinlin believes the workers at MassDOT are doing a good job on some tough projects, adding, “I would much rather be criticized for being a little bit late, than being a lot of sloppy.”


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