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Firm says claims of defective LAX runway are evidence of 'witch hunt'

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Responding to allegations it built a defective runway at Los Angeles International Airport, a major construction company on Wednesday claimed it is the victim of a witch hunt and blamed poor maintenance by LAX workers for the deteriorating pavement.

Tutor-Saliba Corp., of Sylmar, which participated in the $250-million project to relocate the southernmost runway at LAX, made the assertions in a letter sent to Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

The city agency sued Tutor and four other contractors in October, asserting that the 13,000-foot runway completed in 2007 is riddled with defects, including premature cracking, exposed steel reinforcing bars and failing concrete.

Airport officials allege the problems could disrupt future flight operations at the nation's third-busiest airport and require replacement of the pavement earlier than planned.

However, Tutor contends in its letter that the use of abrasive cleaning methods and high-pressure water blasting by maintenance workers is damaging the runway surface, as well as rubberized joint seals in the concrete. Company officials said damage was confined to areas where planes touch down.

After a recent inspection, "it was blatantly obvious that LAWA's airport maintenance has culpability in this matter," the letter stated. "LAWA filing suit against all parties with no contractual relationship between each other is evidence of an apparent witch hunt."

Also named in the case are R & L Brosamer, HNTB Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and O & G Industries Inc., which had partnered with Tutor-Saliba. Brosamer was the paving subcontractor, HNTB provided engineering services and CH2M Hill served as the construction manager. Officials for HNTB and CH2M Hill said they do not discuss litigation.

Located on the south side of LAX near El Segundo, the troubled runway continues to handle up to 500 takeoffs and landings a day. LAX officials have said the problems pose no immediate danger and they are monitoring the condition of the pavement.

Airport officials declined to comment on Tutor-Saliba's accusations, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation.

Tutor said it was relieved of any maintenance responsibilities in April 2007 and that the firm's warranty against defective workmanship and materials expired in 2009. The company's letter also claimed that reports of exposed rebar in areas of the runway over the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel are exaggerated and not in sections involving Tutor's contract.

Company officials stated that the dispute is "very unfortunate" because the runway effort has won accolades, awards and bonuses for workmanship and handling of the project's complexity.

Tutor suggested that Los Angeles World Airports review its maintenance program. In addition, the letter stated that Brosamer, another contractor, will send separate correspondence to airport officials stating that its work methods, concrete mixes and testing complied with its contract and were approved by the airport's engineers, construction manager and design firm.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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