After more than 100 new palm trees die along I-4, who foots the bill?

$28 million will be spent on landscaping along for I-4 Ultimate project

ORLANDO, Fla. – As I-4 Ultimate ramps, bridges and flyovers get finished, landscaping lining the newly renovated roadway is going in to beautify it.

I-4 Ultimate spokesman Dave Parks said as of the end of October 2019, 20,625 plants have been installed as part of the $2.4 billion, 21-mile road construction project.

That includes shrubs, hedges, flowers and palm trees.

Already, some of that vegetation has died, including more than 100 palm trees along Grand National Drive between the Orlando Premium Outlets and Fun Spot America.

Tourists leaving the outlets said the trees look like ugly brown sticks.

Dead palm trees along I-4

Parks said FDOT is aware of the dead trees and blames the dirt.

"There are a few areas where plants have died as a results of soil conditions," Parks said. "The concessionaire is investigating the cause and developing a plan for replacement.  That plan may include different trees and vegetation, based on the findings."

Parks said the concessionaire is the contractor doing the construction, I-4 Mobility Partners.

News 6 has reported on FDOT road projects and the landscaping that accompanies them and discovered that typically when FDOT turns over the completed project to a county or city, that municipality is also then responsible for maintenance of the landscaping.

Some municipalities have struggled to maintain the beautiful and pricey landscaping that FDOT contractors installed, requiring removal and replacement of the landscaping that taxpayer money paid for. That forces taxpayers to pay for road landscaping twice.

Parks said that won't happen with the dead palms or any other newly installed I-4 landscaping.

Dead palm trees along I-4

"The I-4 Ultimate contract is for long-term maintenance as well as design and construction," Parks said. "It is the concessionaire's (I4 Mobility Partners) responsibility to maintain all the landscaping.  This includes replacement of plants that do not survive."

Parks said I-4 Mobility Partners will replace landscaping at "no additional cost to the taxpayer."

"Once construction is complete, the concessionaire is then responsible for operations and maintenance of the corridor, including vegetation, for the balance of the 40-year concession agreement," Parks said.

Parks said 47,735 plants have yet to be placed in the ground. The overall landscaping for the I-4 Ultimate Project is estimated to be valued at $28 million, Parks said.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.