I-95 Is Still Insanely Bumpy And Here's Why

Oct 17, 2014

The patchwork concrete rehabilitation on southbound I-95.
Credit Kenny Malone

“Miami’s Southbound Interstate 95 from 153rd Street to 125th Street looks -- and feels -- like it was engineered by Pablo Picasso,” we reported last August.

Well, apparently I-95 is still in its Cubist phase.

Final smoothing on the blocky, bumpy two-mile stretch of highway was scheduled to begin in September. Due to rain delays the process will now begin “probably end of October, early November,” according to Mohamed “Moe” Mabrouck, an assistant resident engineer for construction with the Florida Department of Transportation.

“So either end of November, very early December worst case scenario if it rains again, we should probably be done with the grinding operation,” Mabrouck says.

The confusingly uneven stretch of I-95 is actually a $5.4 million concrete rehabilitation project that has moved (more specifically, jarred) drivers to complain.

“It felt... like if we were riding a roller coaster and almost ready to puke,” Mike Arias wrote to the Florida Department of Transportation.

“I think with the new repairs, it’s almost like I’d rather see the potholes,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan said during a Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

More than a few times, FDOT has had to explain that the bumps are not, in fact, the final product. Compared to asphalt, concrete sections of I-95 need to be replaced less frequently. Whole slabs of damaged concrete are cut out. New slabs are poured, up to one-eighth of an inch above the road’s surface so contractors can grind everything to the same level. But until the new slabs are ground down the road feels bumpy.

John Hall, a Davie-to-Miami Beach commuter, contacted FDOT about the bumps back in July.

“And they told me at that time the project had begun in fall 2013 and would be finished next month,” Hall wrote in an email. “I assumed that meant August.”

FDOT’s initial project fact sheet says the project was expected to last from “September 2013 - August 2014.” But as of our last report on the construction, weather delays had pushed the grinding phase back to “either the second or third week in September,” according to Felipe Gonzalez, an FDOT project administrator overseeing the rehabilitation. But now the final grinding has been pushed back by weather delays again, to November.

“Rain impacts our work more than if you were building a building,” explains FDOT’s Mabrouk. In some cases, when contractors have other projects lined up and scheduled, a single rain delay can set construction back by weeks. That’s what happened with the 95 bump grinding, says Mabrouk who oversees a number of construction projects in northern Miami-Dade County.

FDOT projects do finish on and ahead of their target completion dates. The I-595 express lanes opened on schedule. The massive Alton Road construction on Miami Beach is supposed to finish months ahead of schedule.

Still, each FDOT construction timeline has an inherent caveat that Floridians may not know about. The department’s policy is to build project timelines around how long the construction process would take under perfect conditions. The target date doesn’t take into account any extra time for weather delays.

“We can't predict how many rain days or cold weather days there will be for any contract,” FDOT spokesman Dick Kane wrote in an email. “So we add them when they occur.”

Of course, FDOT can’t predict the exact number of weather days but could look to past weather data for an educated guess. According to USClimateData.com, Miami has an average of 128 days of rainfall a year.

“If we go back historically and try to check out how many days it rained every year,” says Moe Mabrouk, “I’m pretty sure it’ll be all over the place.”