After a local media investigation revealed the FDOT added approximately 41 years' worth of weather and other delay days to infrastructure projects in the Tampa Bay area, Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson has asked FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault to appear at a November meeting to explain why, according to WFTS Bay Area Action News.
A May report from WFTS revealed that the state has added 15,050 extra days to local road projects for weather, holidays and special events. In the last fiscal year, the granting of extra time added 34% more days to projects in the one district encompassing West Central Florida, but in some instances, the news station found that the weather would not have prevented crews from working.
Brian McKishnie, operations manager for FDOT District 7, told WFTS that the agency "stands behind" the weather delay days it granted contractors. McKishnie added that some of the days granted included holidays and high-traffic days during which contractors are not permitted to work.
On at least one project, Rouson questioned whether the FDOT granted extra days so that the contractor could avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in delay penalties. In response, the FDOT reiterated that the extensions were justified.
Since WFTS released the results of its investigation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Thibault have ordered the FDOT to cut down on project delays. This could mean that the state will scrutinize contractor requests for extensions of time more closely.
The WFTS investigation was kicked off by complaints about how long these projects were taking. However, even road construction projects that don't suffer from weather-related or other delays result in at least some commuter delays. One method of reducing that period of inconvenience, at least for projects that include building bridges, is the Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) method.
This way of building bridges has most of the activity take place offsite in a controlled environment such as a factory, whether that's yards or miles away from where the span will ultimately be installed. This allows for uninterrupted traffic flow until the bridge is ready to be put in place. Even though it's more expensive than traditional methods of bridge construction, agencies are realizing the safety benefits of minimizing the time workers spend in highway work zones and the public relations value of reducing the amount of time motorists have to sit in construction-related traffic.
For a brief time following the collapse of a Florida pedestrian bridge built according to ABC, there were questions about how safe the method was, but prior to that incident, as well as after, there have been safe and successful applications of ABC across the U.S., including in Oklahoma City.