Paying to remove debris and repair damage from crashes along I-95

Truck crash in Boca damaged barrier wall
Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 19:26:30-04

Keeping the highway safe means picking up debris and repairing damage caused by vehicle crashes. But who pays for all that?

A Florida Department of Transportation explained it has different “asset maintenance” contracts to repair infrastructure damage caused by crashes.

In Palm Beach County, for example, FDOT is paying $23.9 million from 2013 to 2020 to Florida Drawbridge, Inc. to repair roads.

FDOT is relying on that contract to repair a barrier wall at the overpass of Congress Avenue and Interstate 95. Thursday, a semi truck driver crashed into the wall, leaving the cab of his truck dangling over the edge for about six hours.

Money for that contract comes from a variety of sources, but mostly through a tax you pay on every gallon of gasoline you buy.

“It’s gotta be cleaned up,” said William Reardon, a Delray Beach resident.

He said he doesn't mind his tax dollars going toward repairing the roads he drives. But he believes some responsibility should fall on the driver who caused the crash.

“The argument is who should pay for it. But you can't leave it [unrepaired],” he pointed out.

FDOT said drivers in crashes do pay the bill from tow truck companies that clean up the scene and remove their cars.

Towing companies are also required to remove debris from crash sites.

But driver Michael Kilmartin will tell you plenty of debris ends up in the traffic lanes even when there isn't a crash.

“A lot of it is litter, trash, there are some items that may have fallen off a vehicle,” said the Delray Beach man who drives on I-95 everyday.

FDOT said crews remove 350,000 pounds of litter and debris from the highway in Palm Beach County alone every year. If the debris isn't related to a crash, FDOT employees or Road Rangers pick it up.

If a crash meets criteria designating it severe, FDOT activates its RISC response, or Rapid Incident Scene Clearing program.

“The RISC program is for larger scale incidents, busses, tractor trailers,” explained Nicole Forest, FDOT’s freeway operations manager.

FDOT pays towing companies between $2,500 and $3,500 in incentives if crews respond to a serious crash within 60 minutes and then clear the cars involved within 90 minutes.

“The most important thing is to get everyone off the roadway. So the expedited clearance is what we focus on, especially with a tractor trailer,” Forest said.

The goal is to get traffic moving again as quickly as possible.