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Aesthetics Count During I-4 Work Through Ybor

Mon May 09, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Bonnie L. Quick

Ybor, “the city with a past,” is getting a new roadway.

Not only is it expected to make travel easier, it should be quieter with aesthetically pleasing noise walls built to match the historic ambiance of the city.

As a result, the surrounding neighborhood will have more green space and larger medians, which could spark a return to enjoying the outdoors for Ybor residents.

Called “Florida’s Latin Quarter,” Ybor beckons visitors back to another era. Wrought iron balconies, globe streetlights, brick-lined walkways and the majestic architecture of cigar factories, social clubs and other unique buildings, provide a glimpse into an era rich with culture and history.

Improvements to Interstate 4 from west of 14th Street to east of 50th Street will keep with the historic and upscale revitalization of the neighborhood.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Ybor City and the city of Tampa worked on this community effort together.

The existing four-lane roadway will become eight lanes. The modification of interchange ramps will improve traffic flow into and out of the area and tie into the downtown Tampa interchange.

Reconstructed bridges will have improved height clearances and be more attractive. Along with noise walls built adjacent to densely developed residential areas, are plans for improved lighting and drainage.

All around the area there is motion and movement. Streets are torn up and the neighborhood is disturbed, but there also is a sense of expectancy. This project will bring needed change. A new auxiliary road will enhance local circulation between the 14th/15th Street and 21st /22nd Street intersections. 19th Street will be permanently closed and interstate access at 40th Street will be relocated to 50th Street. At 50th Street, Columbus Drive will be realigned to the south between 45th and 53rd streets.

“A lot of work is being done for pedestrians in the Ybor area to make the project more user friendly. At 21st and 22nd streets we [FDOT] are adding landscaping, cross walks, sidewalks, lighting and even fountains. This job is not just a roadway project. I think with that in mind, the area will receive it a whole lot better than it was received initially, 40 years ago,” said Joseph E. Blasewitz, senior project administrator of Parson Brinckerhoff Construction Services.

The 2.5-mi. reconstruction inside Tampa’s city limits is a total reconstruction outside the existing alignment, Blasewitz noted.

“Using retaining dirt walls, 18 bridges will be built. Some with concrete pavement, asphalt in other areas,” he said.

When the roadway is completed the new eight-lane section of I-4 will be outside the existing roadway. Where the roadway is presently located, a grassy median will be reserved for future construction of additional travel lanes and either high occupancy vehicle lanes or railroad tracks.

50th Street

Approaching 50th Street eastbound, a Grove RT hydraulic crane is used for light structural work. A cast–in-place retaining wall section that will hold an overhead sign has a reinforced foundation underneath the section. Lights can’t be placed on pre-cast panels because of the weight. The cast-in-place section has its own support system and the pre-cast retaining panels are attached to it.

Street crews are doing utility relocation work along the same section, preparing for more walls. A John Deere 450LC trackhoe, 544J frontend loader and 330C excavator are all hard at work moving dirt and placing pipe. It is part of the contract that the general contractor Gilbert Construction, of Georgia, will move the sanitary sewer system and install 30-in. pipes.

Columbus Avenue

At the redirected Columbus Avenue, a large 230-ton Manitowoc 4100 W crane is used to place the girders for the I-4 eastbound over 50th Street overpass.

The girders are steel I-beams, each approximately 7 ft. tall, weighing 65 tons apiece. They are placed in pairs with a crane on each end.

Overlooking the old roadway and in view of the downtown area, the new westbound alignment of I-4 is a flurry of activity. A Schwing concrete pump pours out the premixed material into the forms that create the noise walls. A Grove RT 880 Mobile Crane moves the wall sections as they are set up. A Caterpillar Blade Pro 140-H motorgrader takes the subsurface to the grade before the concrete work. Three in. of stone are mixed in with the top 6 in. of soil to prepare a platform.

A Gomaco 9500 subgrade trimmer is set to a string line grade to cut the subgrade to a true elevation, which is the last thing before paving. The grade has a cross slope of .25 in. per foot. With four 12-ft. lanes and a 10-ft. shoulder, the slope on the roadway is a foot difference from one side to the other.

The cement paving is laid down one lane at a time using the same string line sensors to guide and keep things at the proper elevation. A Gomaco paver is fed concrete with a conveyor belt. A Gomaco TC 600 tine machine cuts a groove while the concrete is still wet.

On bridges, the process is a little different. Crews wait until the concrete is set between four and 12 hours before cutting grooves in the roadway. To control cracking, crews saw contraction joints where dowel rods are installed below to transfer the weight of traffic.

“On bridges, we mechanically saw the grooves in. On concrete pavement, they do it while the concrete is wet,” said Blasewitz. “On bridges we wait until the concrete is set up, actually after they test it for trueness.”

26th Street

At the site of the new bridge at 26th Street, a Hitachi EX300 trackhoe with a lifting attachment moves the concrete panels that will create the retaining walls. A variety of soil anchor systems, including steel plates, wood lagging, steel H beams and soil nails are used to support the retaining walls. The MSE wall will be held up with retaining straps that will tie into the support system.

“Built into the cost of this project is a bonus — incentive money a contractor can achieve for certain milestones such as early completion,” said FDOT Spokesman John McShaffrey. “We put that into the total cost that we give out to the public because that could be the actual cost if they achieve all that.”

With the incentive being $10,000 a day to finish faster, Blasewitz predicts that the job will be done by summer 2007, rather than the spring 2008 deadline. The job started Feb. 2, 2004. and has had relatively few problems.

“We lost about a month because of the hurricanes but other than that weather has actually been kind,” Blasewitz said. “We have had a rainy day here and there lately but we are getting into the season.”

There’s another reason to stay on schedule for the Ybor project, too.

“There is also a no excuse bonus, which is just how it sounds,” said McShaffrey. “They have a date and if they meet that date, with no excuses, we don’t care if it was weather or whatever, at that point they can get the bonus. [We also have] a couple of disincentives — the same thing, so many dollars per day for going over contract time. It is a two-way system to try to get jobs done either early or on time.”

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