Reconstruction of U.S. Highway 1 is called ’The Stretch’ for good reason — it’s an 18-mi. (29 km) long project beginning at mile marker 106 in Key Largo and ending at mile marker 126 in Florida City.
Plus, its duration extends to nearly the end of the decade.
Currently, the high-volume two-lane highway is undivided with no center barrier. According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), a history of public safety issues is fueling the project. A fact sheet published by FDOT cited speed, traffic volume and a higher-than-average number of serious motor vehicle accidents as motivation to get the job done.
FDOT District 5 spokeswoman Patti Jones said the four-phased project began in April 2005 and is scheduled for completion in June 2009.
“U.S. 1 is the main road — and only one of two that links the Keys to the mainland,” Jones said. “It is the main hurricane evacuation route for the Keys.”
Dividing the job into four separate projects will minimize construction-related impact on motorists and supply lines, according to Jones. She said the first phase covers 6.2 mi. (10 km) at a cost of $148 million.
“Construction on these projects will overlap and there will be times when two or more projects are under construction simultaneously,” Jones said.
Granite Construction Co. is the primary contractor on the current phase of the project. J.C. Miseroy is Area Manager for Granite’s Heavy Civil Division based in Tampa.
“We have numerous subcontractors for this project,” Miseroy said. “At this time we have about five active subs performing various duties from operating the bascule bridge to providing service patrol to tying reinforcing steel. We probably have a total of 20 subcontractors working with us.”
Miseroy said the project is working with a single shift: “We previously worked a second shift on the operation to stabilize the muck materials we encountered along U.S. 1.”
The first phase, currently under way, starts at mile marker 106 and goes to mile marker 113. Jones said this phase involves the replacement of a two-lane bridge over Jewfish Creek. Plans for the new bridge include a low-level extension across Lake Surprise and a fixed higher vertical clearance over a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway, where there is now a traffic-stopping drawbridge.
“We are replacing the drawbridge that was built in 1944 with a fixed span bridge that provides 65 feet of vertical clearance over Jewfish Creek,” Jones said. “The low-level bridge over Lake Surprise will restore water flow.”
Miseroy said Granite Construction currently has approximately 60 workers on site: “We anticipate this number will increase this year as we erect beams and start work on the bridge superstructure.”
The existing Jewfish Creek bridge will remain in place and in use until the new tri-purpose bridge is complete. Jones said the bridge will feature one travel lane in each direction with a median barrier to prevent head-on collisions, shoulders in both directions and new ramps to access local businesses.
“This section has a fascinating history,” Jones said. “The causeway over Lake Surprise was built in the early 1900s when Henry Flagler, one of the founders of Standard Oil Company, built a railroad to Key West. The railroad was destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which was the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.”
Reconstruction of passing lanes will be a component of each phase, as well as construction of inside shoulders, outside shoulders and water quality berms for storm water treatment. Jones said the northbound outside shoulder can be used for hurricane evacuation when necessary.
Granite has a sizeable fleet of equipment on site including four Manitowoc cranes: a 4100, a triple 7, a triple deuce and a 3900W.
“We have a couple Grove RT cranes, one of which is a 65-ton,” Miseroy said. “We have two rigs for drilling shafts: a Bauer and an IMT.”
Miseroy said some of their other equipment includes a Cat 330 backhoe and a Cat 140 motorgrader:
“Most of the project will be worked off the existing causeway or stabilized areas. We are working some of the project from sectional barges, and there are four piers and three spans of beams close to the channel that we plan to install from barge mounted equipment,” he said.
Phase 2 of The Stretch began this year and includes construction of a bridge over the C-111 canal located north of Jewfish Creek. The 4-mi. phase begins at mile marker 113 and goes to marker 117.
Phases 3 and 4 will involve numerous environmental and hydrologic improvements, extending from mile marker 117 to 121.6 and 121.6 to 126.7, respectively.
Design Made Environmentally Friendly
FDOT is paying a great deal of attention to environmental issues as it impinges on this ecologically sensitive region.
Jones said storm water runoff treatment and retention facilities will be installed where there previously were none. Construction of wildlife crossings between Canal C-111 and Florida City, and box culverts throughout the corridor with fencing will be installed to guide wildlife such as endangered panthers, crocodiles and manatees to the crossings.
FDOT also will focus on prevention of fragile, federally protected wetlands by restoring sea grass and mangroves and fresh-water emergent vegetation.
“The most difficult challenge is the environmental scrutiny of the project,” Miseroy said. “So far we have received excellent reviews from the project inspection staff and FDOT.”
Miseroy said his company contracted Hayward Baker for muck stabilizing in designated areas.
“They used a process where they forced a mixture of cement and slag [using air pressure] down a backhoe boom into the muck. The backhoe was fitted with a custom mixing paddle that then blended the materials together. The resulting material is similar to stiff clay.”
Miseroy said safety is stressed on the project. “We have a full-time safety supervisor on the project. We are implementing the Granite Corporate and Project Safety Plans. We have a zero tolerance policy for using fall protection equipment on our projects.” CEG