Contractor blames problems with machine for I-90 traffic backups

CLEVELAND - Commuters driving into downtown Cleveland faced a morning traffic backup Wednesday for the second time in as many weeks after construction crews failed to reopen all lanes of I-90 on time.

ODOT said its contract for the $2.7 million resurfacing project requires Newbury-based contractor Burton Scot to reopen all lanes of the Innerbelt by 6 a.m.

Instead, the highway remained restricted to one lane before all lanes reopened at Wednesday at 6:30 a.m., causing traffic to back up.

A similar incident happened on August 28, causing even more congestion then.

Burton Scot President, Scot Paulitsch issued a statement Wednesday apologizing for the inconvenience to motorists.

"Our skilled teams have been working diligently to comply with ODOT requirements," the statement said. "Unfortunately, we experienced unexpected problems with a machine, and Burton Scot used all means necessary to protect its workers and the traveling public. We are committed to ODOT and safety is always our paramount objective."

ODOT District 12 spokesperson Amanda McFarland said the agency is addressing the problem with Burton Scot, assessing fines and noting the problem on the contractor's evaluation, which is considered when determining future contracts.

McFarland said in the statement that ODOT has already taken steps to assess a $10,700 for the August 28 infraction and is now seeking an even larger fine.

"ODOT shares the frustrations of commuters who have been impacted by these delays. We are taking steps to remove and replace the Burton Scot employee that has been directly overseeing the project’s daily operations," McFarland wrote in the statement, issued Wednesday afternoon. "At this time, the fines for this morning’s work have not been finalized, however, we are looking into our contract and our ability to assess additional, more significant fines."

The project, which involves the resurfacing of I-90 in both directions between I-71 and State Route 2, is scheduled to be completed by the end of September. ODOT has authority to remove the project contractor but is declining to do that so the project can be completed this year, according to the statement.

Fox 8 News reviewed 15 contractor evaluations for projects completed by Burton Scot for ODOT in District 12 in Cuyahoga and Lake Counties in 2016 and 2017. Most showed above-average marks. One evaluation for work on State Route 82 noted traffic issues resulting from the project.

"Burton Scot's actions will adversely impact their rating and will determine future work with the state," McFarland said in the statement, "We will continue to work closely with the contractor and maximize our authority under the contract to ensure this situation does not occur again."