Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
Alex Cabrero ReportingThe contractor who built the sound walls along I-215 is in a bit of trouble tonight. A federal grand jury claims some of the walls are deficient, and that J.D. McNeil Construction knew it. Now the Salt Lake City company is charged with violating a federal law.
There are almost 2,000 sound panels on I-215 between 4700 South and Redwood Road. An inspector with the Utah Department of Transportation says about 35 of them are bad and the contractor hid them among the good ones, hoping nobody would ever know.
You've probably never stood along I-215. It sure is loud. Shelly White’s backyard is just a few feet away.
Shelly White: “We can actually talk out here without having to say, ‘What?’”
White and her neighbors credit the sound walls.
John Southwick: “Noise level has dropped at least three quarters to 90 percent.”
This now quiet neighborhood had to fight to get the walls and did this past summer.
Shelly White: “I love it. It’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done.”
But maybe not the greatest thing the walls' builder has ever done.
Tom Hudachko, UDOT: “It’s an unfortunate situation all the way around.”
Thursday afternoon UDOT spokesman Tom Hudachko found out the builder, JD McNeil Construction, may have been cutting corners.
Tom Hudachko: "We pay for a product and we use taxpayer money to pay for a product, and we hope it's the product that's delivered to the projects we're building."
Joseph McNeil and his company are charged with federal fraud. An inspector says they put up deficient walls, even though he told them not to.
John Southwick: “That’s common in our society today. Everybody is out to save a penny here and there.”
But here's the catch. Only a handful of the 2,000 some walls are bad and UDOT doesn't want to rip them all out just to find a few.
John Southwick: “Leave them as they are, and as they need to be fixed, fixed them at that time.”
If convicted McNeil faces five years in prison and/or a quarter-million dollar fine. We tried calling him today, but his voicemail wouldn't take any more messages and no one was at his office.
UDOT says even though some of the walls are bad, they're not dangerous.