Norfolk, Va. – Hampton Roads’ drivers have been pretty fed up with the pothole problems on I-264, and the VDOT commissioner says the highway wasn’t acceptable.
“No interstate’s roads should be in that type of condition,” said Greg Whirley.
Even VDOT’s chief engineer says he has never seen another road like it in the entire state of Virginia.
“I have never run into a similar situation with the deterioration we have had; that’s what caught the review team by surprise,” said Garrett Moore.
Still, with those reviews, NewsChannel 3 learned Wednesday in Lynchburg that TME Enterprises still has not paid out any pothole claims, not even some of the 200 they have received since the February 8th pothole emergency!
“I do not think that’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s right. They should be reimbursed, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” said Whirley.
According to the commissioner, TME is currently reviewing claims with their insurance company to see if they will pay anything.
VDOT wants swift action, in the next few weeks.
“We advised the contractor that it will be very possible that we will be withholding funds from their payment if these claims are not dealt with or resolved,” said Whirley.
What about all those pothole claims before the heavy rains on February 7th?
Even one CTB member brought up his own experiences and urged the commissioner’s action.
“I’ve lost three tires in six months on those stretches of roads, and it had nothing to do with February 7th. It had everything to do with the underlying problem,” said Shep Miller.
“I will take a look at it. I don’t know what data there is for me to evaluate it, but I will take a look at it,” said Whirley.
TME’s performance in the past also came up during Wednesday’s CTB meeting.
“If we are paying a contractor to perform a service, I expect that service to be performed well so we don’t have to be re-doing things,” said Whirley.
VDOT has publicly slammed the contractor over the last few weeks, releasing a report where investigators found that TME didn’t follow through with their contract.
On Wednesday, VDOT finally handed over TME’s 8-page response to that preliminary pothole report.
“We are reviewing that right now because it disagrees with a lot of what we said, to be frank about it,” said Chief Engineer Garrett Moore.
TME’s response basically hinges on one main argument: Their contract only requires “minor maintenance repair,” and that I-264 and I-64 were “beyond routine pothole maintenance and are in need of major repairs.”
So we took their argument straight to those at the top, and VDOT officials aren’t buying it.
“TME bid on this contract based upon the condition 5 years ago, that they could keep this road in operating condition,” said Whirley.
“If they knew there were those types of problems, why did they go forward and take the contract?” said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton.
In his response, President Matt Ehrenzeller says the company was led to believe full-scale rehabilitation would take place, but the state ran out of money.
He writes: “When the Commonwealth couldn’t afford major repairs, it took the risk of something like this happening and is now trying to shift that risk to TME.”
“If TME came to us and said, ’We no longer can maintain this road because it’s falling apart and we request it be taken out of our contract,’ we would have evaluated that,” said Whirley.
Now, the company says they have spent 32 times what they have budgeted for pothole repairs on I-264 since the February emergency.
They have alerted the state of their intent to claim $250,000 a week for reimbursement.
“It’s easy to make statements, the issue is where are the facts?
Where is the evidence?” asked Whirley. “We are going to treat this thing very seriously.
We believe we are in a solid position, and we are looking out for the Commonwealth and the taxpayers.”