LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - State Rep. Trent Ashby plans to meet with the leadership of the Texas Department of Transportation sometime in January to discuss the ongoing issues related to the August incident in which asphalt from a construction zone on the Lufkin loop got on hundreds of vehicles.
"Trent is not satisfied with the initial response from TxDOT, nor the insurance company for the contractor," said Linda Parker, Ashby's district director. "As a result, he will be meeting with top leadership officials at TxDOT in January. He wants to 'face-to-face' express his dissatisfaction/frustration about the entire situation."
Parker also said that Ashby, R-Lufkin, plans to ask TxDOT officials to consider adding valid claims submitted by those who were affected by the loop conditions in Lufkin to their request for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Harvey-related expenditures if it is possible to do so.
State Senator Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the situation was handled as well.
"I'm disappointed to learn that Old Republic is denying claims," Nichols said. "Legitimate claims should be covered, and affected motorists can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance if they believe their claim was improperly denied."
Ashby's office has also contacted the Texas Department of Insurance, and Parker said that people affected by the tar situation on the loop can file a complaint with the TDI against Clark Construction's insurance company. Clark Construction is the company awarded the construction bid for the construction project on the east side of the Lufkin loop.
Nichols said that affected motorists can file a claim with their own insurance company for damage to their property caused by a third party.
"Insurance companies have the right to legally pursue a third party that has caused an insurance loss to the insured individual," Nichols said.
In addition, Ashby's office is reaching out to the Texas Attorney General's Office to see if they can lend any assistance.
On Aug. 31, the Lufkin Police Department had to shut down the east side of Loop 287 because melting tar from a construction zone stuck to the tires of hundreds of vehicles, including Hurricane Harvey evacuees who were on their way back home. Many drivers' vehicles were nearly inoperable.
According to TxDOT spokeswoman Rhonda Oaks, rain from Tropical Storm Harvey kept the sealing of the road from drying properly. On Aug. 31, the seal melted when the sun came up and began sticking to the tires.
At least 600 people have filed damage claims with TxDOT, a previous East Texas News story stated.
Back in September, East Texas News obtained all correspondence, including text messages and emails, regarding the incident, from TxDOT as part of the Public Information Act. The request included correspondence between the dates of Aug. 1, 2017, and Sept. 6, 2017, regarding Clark Construction and Loop 287.
In an e-mail on Aug. 31 Nicole Al Sayed told Lufkin District Engineer Cheryl Flood that employees should refer citizens to the contact page, where they can file a complaint. Al Sayed then said that TxDOT would provide a standard denial letter with a copy of the Texas Tort Claims Act.
Sayed also said in the e-mail that Clark Construction will likely also deny the claims because the incident would be classified as an "act of God." Clark Construction was
"We can explain to the citizen that because the proximate cause of this failure was from a listed peril: windstorm, hail, water, or flood and that the citizen should be able to file a claim with their carrier. Of course, the citizen would need to have Comprehensive Coverage on their Personal Automobile Policy," Al-Sayed explained in the e-mail to Flood.
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.