The $4.1 million project is 75 to 80 percent complete but has become an eyesore, with a sidewalk closed on 17th Street just west of the Washington Monument and the site a stark construction landscape.
The area is one of the most heavily traveled and sensitive areas on the Mall, where throngs of visitors daily troop to the National World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool from the White House and the Ellipse. But what visitors see is the levee’s two unfinished concrete barriers on plots of bare dirt, cordoned off with stockade fencing.
“It’s been a few months that we’ve not seen significant work,” Augsburger said. “It’s an important project for the city. We have the responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. And so . . . it was the prudent thing to do to make a change.”
The corps is overseeing the project, which has been at least five years in the making. It ended the contract of Hirani Engineering and Land Surveying of Jericho, N.Y., on April 26, Augsburger said. The contract had been awarded to Hirani on Sept. 16, 2010.
The corps announced the start of the levee project at a news conference Nov. 15, 2010. It said construction would begin that December and conclude in summer 2011.
Augsburger said that construction didn’t begin until January 2011, and the completion date subsequently slipped to October 2011, then to April 2013. Last month, a corps official said he hoped the project would be done this summer.
Hirani has “been responsible for the construction of the project from the beginning to where it is today,” Augsburger said.
Asked why the work hadn’t gone forward, he said: “It’s tough to say. It’s not something that I . . . can really answer.”
Several calls to Hirani with requests for comment were not returned.
During a tour of the site last month, before Hirani was terminated, Anthony Vidal, the manager of the levee-safety program, was asked about the delays.
“There have been a lot of schedule changes,” he said. “There were some issues with putting in the foundations, doing the work, getting the contractor up and running. . . . There’s a lot of specialty items here that you can’t go to Home Depot and buy.”
The project called for the construction of reinforced berms, the concrete walls and a temporary “post-and-panel” structure to keep floodwaters from flowing north on 17th Street from the Tidal Basin.
The post-and-panel structure would consist of nine-foot-tall metal posts that, in the event of a flood, would be moved by a crane into six receptacles that have been dug across 17th Street. Aluminum panels would then be slid between the posts to form a barrier.