KY Contractor Tackles First Sunshine State Project

Thu August 04, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

Elmo Greer and Son’s first project in Florida should improve safety for the state’s residents when Mother Nature rears her ugly head.

The London, KY-based contractor is widening 27 miles of Route 60 in Indian River County from Interstate 95 to the Florida Turnpike in three separate contracts.

The roadway continues west all the way to Clearwater on the Gulf coast. Barbara Kelleher, public information director for Florida Department of Transportation’s district four, said people along both coasts use Route 60 to evacuate to the opposite side of the state when a hurricane is about to hit.

The next closest evacuation route for the residents surrounding Vero Beach is Route 70, located approximately 50 miles to the south, Kelleher said.

The contractor is widening Route 60 from one to two lanes in each direction.

Aside from carrying residents to safety, Kelleher said the roadway also is a major route for citrus haulers out of Vero Beach. Approximately 17,000 vehicles travel Route 60 per day.

The first contract, which runs westbound from I-95 for 11 miles, is valued at $33.8 million and should be completed this year, Kelleher said. The second contract for the next 11 miles of Route 60 to the west, which began in March 2003, should be wrapped up by April 2006 at a cost of $37.9 million.

Work on the third contract, which will include the final five miles, is expected to begin in August.

“Being their first road construction project in Florida, they had to quickly familiarize themselves with the materials and environment that they would be dealing with to construct this roadway,” said FDOT Project Manager John Nelson.

The roadway is being built on two types of land — the upper sandy parts and the lower muddier parts.

“The lower level is where the challenges are found,” Nelson said.

Crews encountered a layer of muck that, by design, was to be surcharged instead of removed. As it turns out, the muck remained uncooperative and refused to be surcharged, forcing the contractor to remove it, resulting in a $4 million supplemental agreement.

Throughout the stretch of the project, the contractor has encountered much softer land than they were used to.

Elmo Greer crews also have to remain aware of the environmentally-sensitive area in which they are working, which has wetlands and endangered or threatened species throughout the area.

“This also proved to be a challenge, as the construction went right up to the right-of-way,” Nelson said. “This left no buffer or construction easement between the construction activities and the wetlands.”

More than 3.6 million cu. yds. (2.8 million cu m) of embankment and 1.5 million cu. yds. (1.2 million cu m) of surcharge embankment is being moved in the first two contracts. Another 850,000 cu. yds. (650,000 cu m) of excavation is being completed.

Also in the first two parts of the project, approximately 930,000 sq. yds. (777,000 sq m) of asphalt will be laid and 10 bridges will be constructed.

The project is approximately 10 percent behind schedule, which Nelson blames on the removal of unusable mud from the site, as well as last year’s barrage of hurricanes. Still, they expect to complete the job as scheduled.

At the peak of construction activities, approximately 110 personnel were on-site, half of whom were truck drivers.

While the Elmo Greer crews had to adapt to a different kind of dirt, the equipment they are using is more than familiar. The fleet includes a dozen Komatsu PC400LC excavators, a dozen Cat dozers, two long-reach backhoes, five Cat VHP 140H motorgraders, a Terex TR-4503 CMI trimmer, a Terex mixer, 40 to 60 dump trucks and six to 12 off-road dump trucks. CEG