LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - At least two drivers expressed concerns to TxDOT about the quality of the road construction on the Lufkin loop three days before the asphalt stuck to the tires of hundreds of drivers on Aug. 31.
KTRE has obtained hundreds of pages of correspondence regarding the incident through the Public Information Act. TxDOT complied with the request without appeal.
TxDOT was forced to close the east side of Loop 287 on Aug. 31 after melted tar began sticking to drivers' tires. According to TxDOT spokeswoman Rhonda Oaks, rain from Tropical Storm Harvey kept the sealing of the road from drying properly. On that Thursday, the seal melted when the sun came up and began sticking to the tires.
TxDOT shut down the road, but not before hundreds of drivers had found their vehicles nearly undriveable. About 600 people have filed damage claims with TxDOT.
A Lufkin resident called TxDOT on Aug. 28 to warn them rock on the road was coming up.
In an email to Nacogdoches Area Engineer Shannon Ramos, an executive assistant states the man "called to notify us about the seal coat project on Loop 287 and how the rock did not stick."
"He was very polite and just wanted use [sic] to be aware that the rock on the road was coming up," she stated.
A resident's email at 5:11 p.m. the same day shows concern with the construction company.
"…my concern/complaint is not necessarily with the decision to use sealcoat, but with the piss-poor quality of the sealcoating by the outsource contractor Clark Construction and/or the seemingly lack of quality assurance done by Clark and the TXDOT officials responsible for overseeing the project," the email states.
The resident does also express concern with using sealcoat.
"It does, however, create serious safety concerns for motorists when not done to a high degree of quality (Ex. Clark Construction), by leaving the loose rocks and creating pockets for water in the lanes that increase the probabilities for hydroplaning," the email states.
Ramos responds to the email, saying TxDOT contractors compete for projects through the low-bid process and TxDOT must abide by those guidelines.
Days before the Aug. 31 incident, hundreds of drivers had already filed claims after kicked-up loose rock cracked windshields and chipped paint.
In one email, a TxDOT official speculated Clark Construction's insurance company would deny all claims, citing an Act of God as the reason.
Officials with Clark Construction have not answered an email requesting comment.
Editor's note: The preceding story is one in a series regarding the Lufkin loop incident on Aug. 31. Related stories can be found on this page.