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I-94 work sparks lawsuit

Project neighbor claims damage to home from nearby construction

A Milwaukee resident is claiming more than $50,000 in damage to his home as a result of nearby construction on Interstate 94.

Enrique Rodriguez filed suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and three local contractors Thursday, alleging they are responsible for damaging his home’s foundation, creating a mold infestation and cracking windows.

“He’s just looking for the ability to repair what’s been done to his house so he can continue to live in it,” said Rodriguez’s attorney, Gil Urfer, of Nistler Law Office SC, Brookfield.

Urfer said Rodriguez bought the two-story home at the end of a cul-de-sac in about 1994 and still is living at 4843 S. 15th Place. The house is directly east of I-94 and borders a vacant lot that was used as a staging area during construction.

According to the complaint, in April 2009, WisDOT notified Rodriguez of the planned construction, as part of the 35-mile reconstruction of the I-94 north-south corridor. The work near Rodriguez’s home began in 2009 and continued through August 2011.

The scope of construction included excavation of a creek bed and a vacant lot near Rodriguez’s home for installation of a cement sewer pipe. The installation disrupted the natural water flow, Urfer said.

Bulldozers, dump trucks, and excavating and grading machines were used within 20 feet of Rodriguez’s home, causing vibrations, according to the complaint.

Shortly after work ended on the section of I-94 near Rodriguez’s home, he discovered wet insulation in his basement, cracks in upstairs windows and displaced basement panels as a result of a foundation shift, according to the complaint.

Rodriguez could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

One of his neighbors said the project was more than a nuisance.

“I was frightened some days,” said Sharon Blando, who lives across from Rodriguez at the end of the cul-de-sac. “It felt like my entire house elevated and dropped when all the work was going on. It was like an amusement park ride.”

Blando said the filling of the creek resulted in drainage problems and ponds in yards. Further, she said, her basement walls have hairline cracks caused by the construction.

But Blando said she refrained from filing a lawsuit or seeking an insurance claim from WisDOT because of personal circumstances and reluctance to spend money fighting the state.

“I didn’t think I could afford to pick a fight with the DOT,” she said. “So I guess we will just live with it.”

Urfer said a WisDOT insurance adjuster denied Rodriguez’s claim for relief in 2011, and an independent engineer assessed the damage to the home at more than $50,000.

According to the complaint, the engineer determined the damage was caused by dewatering the creek and vibration pressure caused by the heavy machinery. WisDOT and subcontractors, according to the complaint, should have expected the damage and taken steps to prevent it.

Along with WisDOT, the lawsuit names subcontractors Edgerton Contractors Inc., Oak Creek; DK Contractors Inc., Pleasant Prairie; and Detherdt Trucking Inc., Franklin.

Mike Pyritz, WisDOT Southeast Region communications specialist, said the problem would be resolved by the courts and attorneys, and he declined to comment further.

DK was responsible for the excavation and drainage work and installing the storm sewer and water main systems on the property near Rodriguez’s home. The work included installation of 12- and 16-inch water transfer lines buried 40 feet deep at 20th Street.

“Everything was done according to plan,” said Kevin Harrison, DK project manager. “We were working with a state inspector watching us every step of the way.”

Edgerton vice president Pete Davis said his company didn’t violate any standards during excavation for the highway, bridges, tunnels and ponds in the area.

A number for Detherdt could not be found.

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