Major problems for a long delayed
and new major highway; VDOT says major problems with Peninsula's
A Virginia News Source investigation
The new section of I-64 on the Peninsula, already 32.3% over budgeted costs, may have flaws that will require the entire project to be ripped out and repaved. That's the worst case scenario, said John H. Neal Jr., Hampton Roads District Construction Engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
VDOT has acknowledged that it cannot open the new section of I-64 at Mercury Boulevard because a major problem has been discovered. VDOT, in a dispute with the contractor, E. V. Williams, claims at least some portions, if not all of the new highway does not meet state safety standards. It is flat in places which would cause it to flood during rains or storms.
The worst case scenario would require the entire new section to be ripped out and re-paved, Neal said. But there could be two other fixes: Overlay specific problems sections or grind out individual problem sections.
At this point, VDOT said it does not know: (1). The severity of the problem; (2). how much pavement is involved; (3) what'll be required to repair the roadway; (4) who's responsible; (5) what the repair cost will be; or (6) who will pay for repairs.
What VDOT does know is they can't assure the roadway is safe for motorists to use at this time. And Neal says he does believe it is probably the worst problem VDOT has ever had with a major roadway.
But he said he would have the answers in 2 weeks. He said VDOT would know all the answers, including cost of the fix and who's responsible for the problem in two (2) weeks. He didn't equivocate during an interview with Virginia News Source in his Suffolk District office in making that statement.
Neal added, "Regardless of the final analysis, it is a major problem."
One contractor working on the project said the entire new section of I-64 was poured 'flat'. "When it rains, water stands on the roadway. Anybody can see the road is flat. It doesn't drain," he said. Most likely, he added, the entire project will have to be ripped up and re-paved. "If that happens," he said, "it could bankrupt even a big contractor." VDOT, said Neal, can't confirm the contractor's assessment of the problem.
Ironically, the project was effectively on schedule. Started in May 2001, it was originally set to open May 2004, but that opening was rolled back to December 2004 and now has been estimated to open about May 2005. And now that opening depends on the extend of the problem and scope of repairs or replacement.
It was over budget. Originally budgeted for $64.7 MILLION, the completed cost, not counting resolving the problems currently being assessed, is now estimated at $85.7 MILLION. The additional cost, Neal said, depends on the seriousness of the problem and the responsibility and liability.
Neal, who's been on the job about a year, said he wasn't sure when the problem was first noticed, but said one of VDOT's inspectors noticed the problem as the pavement was being laid.
He said, "We notified the contractor that the problem needed to be resolved." E. V. Williams, he said, continued to pave the project. "The contractor proceeded anyway," Neal said.
During the next two (2) weeks, Neal said, VDOT has to determine who read the elevations wrong 'us or the contractor.' "But," he said, "we are not at the point (now) of assessing liability."