Cranes Impact Air Travel at Tampa Interchanges

Thu August 03, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Brian Kern

While it’s no secret that road and highway improvements are oftentimes inconvenient for drivers and a challenge to general traffic flow, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has taken the anxiety factor a step further by temporarily infringing on the glide space of Tampa’s International Airport.

During the three-mile long Tampa Airport Interchanges project, which began last August, a nightly closure of runway 18R36L is taking place at the discretion of Airport Duty Officers — and Mother Nature. Diversion of air traffic to alternate runways occurs between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., weather permitting, while 250 ton cranes with 140 ft. booms work on three and four layer road and bridge systems, slated to be removed and replaced before the project is deemed complete.

With their eyes on a mid-2010 completion date, FDOT is making improvements and modifications to State Route 60 interchanges near the TIA. The state’s prime contractor is a partnership between Tidewater Skanska of Virginia and Flatiron Constructors of Colorado — a heavy-weight duo that has a solid and mutually beneficial history.

The $202 million project will eliminate traffic signals at congested points along the Courtney Campbell Causeway and at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay entrance on SR60. Reduced congestion at I-275 ramps and eased traffic flow into and out of the airport also are two of FDOT’s desired goals.

Several engineering consulting firms are involved in the project and Sherman Johnson, a URS spokesperson, is the Bridge Projects Administrator on the job. He said the multi-layer road system presents a difficult scenario in regard to securing the foundation.

“We have to install tension pilings by drilling into a limestone rock socket,” Johnson said. “Compression pilings that provide support are placed in the same holes.”

Johnson said 120 pilings have been placed so far — about a yard apart — with a total of 500 pilings to be installed through the job.

During the multi-year job, maintaining the traffic flow will be accomplished by constructing temporary flow lanes adjacent to the new construction.

“The project has 21 phases and some portions of the road will be built in half,” Johnson said. “There will be numerous traffic shifts and 36 special detours.”

To date, 99,300 sq. yds. (83,000 sq m) of asphalt and 93,300 sq. yds. (78,000 sq m) of dirt have been brought in to construct temporary flow lanes. After project completion the temporary materials will be torn out and recycled. On the permanent side of things, 400,000 cu. yds. (306,000 cu m) of embankment have been hauled in with an end usage amount projected at 1.5 million cu. yds. (1.1 million cu m)

Gerald Cavallaro, FDOT project manager on the job, said coordinating activities with the airport and the heavy traffic volume around the airport are among the most challenging aspects of the endeavor.

“During the design phase we met with airport officials on a regular basis,” Cavallaro said. “They still attend our weekly meetings.”

Cavallaro said the airport requires 72-hour written notification prior to any activity affecting airport operations or property. During the nightly runway closure period, the contractors must submit an official airport request form daily, in order to cover the construction activity three days in the future.

“We’ve gotten to know the airport duty officers pretty well by now,” Cavallaro and Johnson said.

In addition to airport issues, Cavallaro said FDOT is working closely with the West Shore Business District, a group of travel and cargo-related businesses located adjacent to the airport and SR60.

“We’re trying to be a good neighbor to the West Shore Alliance Group,” Cavallaro said. “We keep them abreast of everything we’re doing.”

In an effort to keep the flow of traffic as fluid as possible throughout the course of the project, FDOT has installed the Road Ranger program to reduce delays due to disabled vehicles. The service is gratis for motorists and the Rangers patrol the length of the project 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Maintenance of traffic items account for about $10 million of the total contract bid price.

Cavallaro said night work, with collateral noise and light issues, is unavoidable on a project of this magnitude. Generally, nighttime detour hours will fall between 8:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

In addition to the reconstruction of SR60 from I-275 to Veteran’s Expressway, or the Courtney Campbell Causeway Interchange, one mile of westward Courtney Campbell Causeway also will be overhauled. Cavallaro said the contractor also will reconstruct and widen a portion of the road leading into the airport. The Spruce Street Interchange at SR60 will become a four-level system, while the Courtney Campbell Causeway interchange at SR60 will be three-tiered, according to a fact sheet linked to the Tampa Bay Interstates Web site,

“We’re also involved in the replacement of the existing aviation lighting system, to be performed in conjunction with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration],” Cavallaro said. “The FAA will remove the old lights and install new ones — our contractor will drill new shafts for 10 banks of light units.”

Johnson said 39 subcontractors had been approved to work on the TIA site: “On any given day there are between 120 and 150 workers on site.”

The contractor owns approximately 60 percent of the machinery recorded on its seven-page equipment list; the remainder is rented. Included on the roster are a 200-ton Kobelco crawler crane, two RT450 Terex Rough Terrain cranes and a 150-ton Manitowoc 555 crane with a 140-foot boom.

A fleet of rollers includes six 84-in. Cats (CS533Es and CS563s) and two SD-70DTF 66-in. Ingersoll Rands.

Working For a Bonus

A fairly involved bonus system is in place for this project, giving the contractor several opportunities to make extra money — or to lose some. The so-called incentive/disincentive program allows for nearly $9 million in total bonus money. In certain cases, completion ahead of schedule will garner the contractor up to $4 million. In other cases, incentives will be awarded if certain portions of the project are completed in a specific timeframe. If portions of the project are not completed by predetermined dates, the contractor’s pay will be docked on a daily basis. CEG

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