ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - “I-4 is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get,” Angel and Bethany Bryant chuckle as they exercise on a hot summer morning in Altamonte Springs.
The Bryants call Altamonte Springs home, and commute 18 miles each way to their jobs at Universal. For them, Interstate 4 is as necessary as it is unavoidable. The Bryants are just two of the millions from around the world who for several years have passed signs along the interstate reading: “I-4 Ultimate: Building a better I-4."
As Central Florida drivers deal with construction, detours, closures and backups on I-4, 9 Investigates has learned the I-4 Ultimate project could be months behind schedule, according to a new financial outlook on the project.
The report for investors suggests several construction delays. The report, which was obtained by Eyewitness News, highlights daily progress along I-4, but also says the project is 245 days behind schedule.
The report cites “exposure to named storms and geology conducive to sinkholes” for the eight-month delay.
The interstate is a stranger to neither.
Nearly a decade ago, long before the I-4 Ultimate project started, crews had to fix an ancient sinkhole at the Maitland interchange. In September 2017, Hurricane Irma halted construction on the 21-mile corridor for several days.
FDOT, which the report said has increased oversight of the project, said their dates for substantial completion and final completion have not changed, even the group behind the I-4 Ultimate project is asking for more time and compensation for problems during construction.
“[FDOT] has received a claim […] requesting additional compensation and a time extension due to challenges [the company] allege they are experiencing with foundation construction,” FDOT said in a statement. “The department is in the process of reviewing this claim at this time.”
The claim is outlined in that financial report to investors. It claims the majority of the project won’t be done until Sept. 2, 2021, while the agreement between FDOT and I-4 Mobility Partners originally called for substantial completion at the end of 2020.
Another issue: The delay could grow longer over the course of the next three years.
“It’s not uncommon for a project of this magnitude,” said financial expert Joe Bert about the delays highlighted in the report. “The thing is we’ve never dealt with anything like this in Central Florida.”
What this means for the total cost of the $2.3 billion project remains to be seen, as attorneys get involved and finger pointing heats up, Bert said.
The report also said the company that’s building the project has a couple of things it can do to make up 80 to 100 of the 245 days of delays – as long as issues like hurricanes do not cause more setbacks.
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