JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax obtained hundreds of pages of internal Florida Department of Transportation documents that show why the agency along with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are blaming the contractor Archer Western for some of the construction issues regarding the massive Interstate 95 and 295 interchange project in North Jacksonville – including FDOT handing down a stop work order on May 19.
Parts of the project were scheduled to be finished next month with full completion expected to take another year, but FDOT has hit the brakes on those plans because of dirty water and sand runoff issues.
“It’s been a problem?,” Action News Jax Ben Becker asked neighbor Richard Bednarczyk. “Yes,” said Bednarczyk “I’ve got a ton of pictures and video of it.”
Bednarczyk’s lives near the interchange along Little Cedar Creek but the runoff has turned it into a large sandy creek leaving water with only one place to go - into his yard. Bednarczyk says it has caused flood damage and downed trees leading to $30,000 worth of damage.
“Who do you blame,” asked Becker. “Whoever is in control of the job site,” said Bednarczyk of the Archer Western construction project that has created a huge headache for hundreds of thousands of local drivers that’s years behind schedule and millions over budget.
“This is unacceptable,” said Greg Evans who is the District 2 Secretary for FDOT. Becker has learned the agency has issued a total of three temporary suspension of work orders against Archer Western during the course of the project for among things a lack of erosion and sediment control.
“Did FDOT ever consider pulling the plug on the contractor?,” asked Becker. “Not at this point, that a large leap,” said Evans. “Is there anything FDOT could have done differently?,” Becker followed up. “Every Monday morning quarterback is an expert and we can look at every single job we have ongoing and have lessons learned.”
In order for Archer Western to be permitted to continue work on the I-95/I-295 project following the latest delay, the contractor must:
- Hire a third party independent specialized environmental compliance firm.
- Submit a corrective action plan including signed and sealed temporary drainage plans as well as detailed erosion control plans for the deficient areas.
- Do not resume suspended operations or work until authorized to do so by the Engineer in writing.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also issued a consent order in March that said Archer Western “failed to properly maintain certain best management practices” including “44 potential violations.”
DEP fined the contractor $50,000, only because that’s the most it can under state law.
Becker e-mailed Archer Western to get their side of the story on the delays and the environmental issues but the company refused to comment.
Inside the numbers of I-95/I-295 Interchange project:
Start: July 22, 2016
Time: 1,380 days (3 ½ years)
Current: 2,441 days (6 ½ years)
Archer Western has been allowed extra time to complete the project per its contract with FDOT (not including run-off issues) and has received the following extensions:
Supplemental: 439 (incl. 263 COVID)
The project that FDOT says is supposed to modernize and reconfigure the road as well as improve traffic flow, safety and increase capacity has had some other unforeseen delays.
Action News Jax first reported in February 2020 that crews found human remains while bulldozing new fill dirt. Then in October 2020, endangered gopher tortoise burrows were discovered and had to be relocated.
As for Richard Bednarczyk, Becker is working to get him more answers as hurricane season is right around the corner.
“If this doesn’t get fixed when the tides come in because it’s tide influenced, the water is just going to keep pushing into here.”
FDOT says Archer Western is still on the bidder’s list for future projects because it’s still qualified per Florida law and bids must go to the lowest qualified contractor despite past performance.
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There’s no word yet on how much Archer Western could pay in liquated damages to FDOT for delays not covered by its contract.