After a year of delays and problems with substandard work, the new Seven Oaks interchange overpass at Blackwell Road north of Central Point will open to traffic by Saturday morning.

After a year of delays and problems with substandard work, the new Seven Oaks interchange overpass at Blackwell Road north of Central Point will open to traffic by Saturday morning.

The new southbound off-ramp won't open until after the old bridge is demolished in September, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming. Other on- and off-ramps are open.

The overpass and reconstruction of bridges just to the north of the interchange on Interstate 5 were plagued with problems under the former contractor, Ross Bros. Reinforcing walls had to be rebuilt and other engineering problems fixed, ODOT officials said.

The current contractor, Legacy Contracting, a successor to Ross Bros., is being assessed $1,000 a day in penalties by the Oregon Department of Transportation for failing to complete the project in a timely manner.

By the time the project is completed sometime in October, Legacy will owe more than $300,000 in penalties that began on Nov. 1, 2008.

Work on the overpass started in January 2006.

"We're looking forward to completing the project," said Tim Fletcher of ODOT.

Despite the setbacks and other problems, Fletcher said the bridge will be ready for use by the public because everything that was done wrong has been identified and corrected.

"We're not routing any traffic onto any structure unless we are satisfied that it is safe, " he said.

The old overpass is scheduled for demolition in early September. Workers will take the structure down during low-traffic hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Work will continue on a bridge on Interstate 5 over the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad tracks near the interchange.

The $24 million interchange ultimately will replace the Exit 35 overpass and the two bridges over the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad tracks. The project started in March 2006 and was scheduled to be finished last October.

Until the project is further along, ODOT managers are not sure yet how much over budget it might be.

Leaming said his agency has answered complaints before about the slow work on the interchange. Six months ago he said he would have agreed that not much was being done. Recently the project has been progressing, though it might not be apparent to motorists going by at freeway speeds.

Leaming said work has been proceeding under the overpass, and construction crews are working on the other bridges to the north. Some work has been done at night, too.

Leaming said it is time to get the project finished.

"We've been pretty up-front with Ross/Legacy to get this done and get them out of there," he said.

Ross Bros. and other construction companies owned by Steven M. Ross were banned from working on public projects in January as part of a settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice, which accused Ross of civil racketeering in a project in Ontario and in the Depot Street bridge project in Rogue River. The agreement stated all parties specifically denied any wrongdoing and allowed Ross' successors and family to create a new corporation to engage in public works contracting.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.