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City pays for Grand Prix roadwork completed three years ago

Nearly $500,000 ratified by Board of Estimates for racetrack street improvements in 2010 and 2011

Above: Fixing the roads downtown in preparation for the first Grand Prix in 2011.

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved nearly half a million dollars ($485,483.36) in payments for road improvements that were completed three years ago in connection with the now-defunct Grand Prix race.

The city Department of Transportation blamed “an administrative error” as the cause for not bringing the added expenditures to the attention of the board earlier.

“The department apologizes for this oversight” in not seeking board approval for the cost overrun, the agency stated in a memo.

The spending panel, headed by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, ratified the payment without discussion as part of its blanket approval of “routine” spending items.

Finance Director Harry E. Black cast the “aye” vote on behalf of the mayor, who was reported on vacation and out of town by her staff.

Yesterday’s money comes on top of the $7.75 million awarded to P. Flanigan & Sons in 2010 to make street improvements along the Inner Harbor course of the Grand Prix.

The first race was held over Labor Day weekend 2011, but the event was suspended last year, ostensibly due to scheduling conflicts but in fact because of loses suffered by the race’s chief promoter, financier James P. Grant (here and here).

The original $7.75 million came from state and federal highway grants. Yesterday’s money is from general funds and was transferred out of a construction reserve for improving neighborhood streets, according to board records.

Pierce J. Flanigan IV, president of the contracting company, expressed surprise that the payment (technically called a “release of claims and indemnification”) took so long to be ratified.

“A Damn Good Deal”

“I honestly do not know why it took so long to finalize the payment,” he said in an e-mail exchange with The Brew. “That project mainly consisted of one mile of asphalt resurfacing on Conway and Russell Street and one mile of concrete pavement repairs on Pratt and Light Street.”

“Various revisions” requiring more construction materials and “strict requirements in order for the activities to proceed as planned” were cited as the reasons for the cost overrun by city transportation officials.

Flanigan provided more details and defended the work as important in maintaining four heavily-trafficked city streets.

“Much of the extra work had to do with making the transition areas between sidewalks and crosswalks in that area ADA compliant. While the mandate to complete the project before the Grand Prix drove the construction schedule, the work was necessary and appropriate for the area regardless of the event.”

He added, “The streets are in much better shape, the area is safer for pedestrians, and it was completed in a timely fashion. The Grand Prix may not be the annual event that many hoped it would be, but Baltimore got a damn good deal on that road work.”

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