By Jason Allen

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Federal lawsuits have stalled work on a $20-million parking garage meant to ease crowded lots at the Dallas VA Medical Center. The nearly finished structure was scheduled to open earlier this year.

The nation’s second largest VA system has struggled with crowding, with the main campus on Lancaster Road in Dallas looking less like a hospital some days, and more like a holiday weekend at the airport.

Cars are crammed into every space, and space outside of spaces. Some veterans, like Sam Watkins, factor an extra half hour into a trip now to find parking in the neighborhood and walk in.

“Depends on how I’m feeling that day whether I’ll make it or not,” Watkins said.

The VA opened a new parking structure on the campus four years ago but it wasn’t enough. A new one was due to open earlier this year, but right now it is fenced off, with cars parked around it, but not in it.

“Should be on top of the agenda,” said another veteran, Andre Garcia.

The VA awarded the $20-million contract for the project to a company from San Antonio, Blackhawk Ventures. But according to VA sources, and federal court records, last year Blackhawk stopped paying sub-contractors, and they stopped working.

Court records show it has happened before. Blackhawk is named in federal lawsuits on at least a dozen government projects, including a bridge at Fort Hood, Navy guard towers in Washington, and an Army Reserve center in Florida.

The disputes and financial problems go back as early as 2010, three years before the $20-million project in Dallas was awarded.

The I-Team contacted the VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction several times for information about the contract, and the project, but it never came. Blackhawk, which advertises itself as a service disabled veteran owned business, didn’t return calls either.

Local VA sources told us the national director for VA construction has been in Dallas, meeting with the contractor and a bonding company trying to find a way to finish the project, so it’s not another roadblock for veterans.

Federal courts agreed to dismiss some of the suits filed against Blackhawk, but details of any settlement agreements in those cases weren’t made public.

The I-Team has reported on parking issues at the VA before. In March, Dallas parking officers were writing tickets, at a vacant, city-owned lot. At the time, the city said it didn’t need to post any signs telling veterans to stay off the property. Now the city has posted those signs.

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