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Va. roads agency reverses contractor firing

Tuesday - 7/19/2011, 5:33am  ET

ROANOKE, Va. - The Virginia Department of Transportation has reversed the firing of a contractor it said failed to clean snow and ice from western Virginia highways, contributing to the stranding of motorists on Interstate 81.

The agency has reversed the cancellation of two highway-maintenance deals with Infrastructure Corporation of America for what it had said was inadequate work on the interstates during the winter of 2009-10. The Roanoke Times reports that the state also has paid the Tennessee-based company $2.2 million to settle ICA's claims for money damages and wrongful termination.

Chief executive Howard "Butch" Eley says he's pleased with the settlement. VDOT has reclassified the termination of two agreements as a not-for-cause action.

ICA had a five-year, $29 million contract to maintain I-81, I-581 and parts of U.S. 460 in Botetourt, Montgomery, Pulaski and Roanoke counties. It dispatched 50 plows during the severe snows Dec. 18-19, 2009. But travel came to a halt for many, and VDOT representatives publicly criticized ICA, calling its efforts inadequate.

The company was also responsible for many miles of I-81 in VDOT's Staunton district, where similar problems occurred.

In the aftermath, ICA officials called the big storm close to a catastrophic event, with snowfall of 3 inches an hour at least some of the time. The company noted that, while it was under contract to keep travel lanes open, there was a written exception to the requirement in times of extremely heavy snow.

VDOT didn't announce the negotiated agreement, which was signed in November. Attorneys determined the settlement outside of court, and agreement documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request don't state specific conclusions.

Agency spokesman Joe Vagi called the agreement "a compromise position where we agreed to settle issues and walk away from the contract."

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com


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