FDOT says flooding on Interstate 4 is unacceptable

Drainage became issue after heavy rains fell, officials say

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORLANDO - Flooding due to heavy rains caused stop-and-go traffic throughout various portions of Interstate 4 on Wednesday. 

In the westbound lane of I-4 heading toward Michigan Avenue, the Florida Department of Transportation put down orange cones and forced traffic to merge into two lanes.

Sand and grass could be seen washing down near cars in the area.

One driver said she was on her way to her father's birthday dinner on International Drive when she got caught in the mess.

"It was like a pool," she said. "I was going, like, 20-30 mph. It was very flooded, splashing everywhere. I barely made it."

On I-4 near the turnpike, a blinking arrow told drivers to change lanes due to flooding.

"The interstate should not be flooding. It should not have stayed flooded for as long as it did, especially down near the turnpike," said Steve Olson, with the Florida Department of Transportation.

Olson said that, on Thursday morning, FDOT had a meeting with SGL Constructors, the company in charge of the 21-mile I-4 Ultimate Project.

"We said, 'Look, what are you guys going to do?" Olson said after the meeting. "This is serious."

FDOT said the flooding issues mostly popped up around new construction projects and that the heavy rain couldn't stand up to the drainage systems. Olson said, however, the department also feels SGL should have known the rain was coming. 

"That was some of the concerns we expressed as well. We know this was going to be a week of rain, our concern is that there needed to be more preparation," Olson said. 

This is not the first time flooding has happened along I-4. In March, lanes on I-4 eastbound near Fairbanks Avenue had to be shut down because of flooding. At that time, Olson said FDOT deducted payments to SGL because of it and, he said, because of what happened Wednesday, payments could be deducted again.

"So in other words, money comes out of the contract that we are paying on this," Olson said.  "There was one levied after the March incident and, again, we are looking at it for this one as well."

Until then, FDOT said SGL has contractors standing out on the corridors to watch the flooding while it rains. The department has also hired a third party to do the same and will have resources on standby as a third layer in case lanes have to be shut down again. 

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