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Middlesex Takes on First Major Turnpike Project in 40 Years

Thu July 06, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Brian Kern

A Manitowoc 888 230-ton crane sat briefly idle after an early May rain shower at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida’s Turnpike in Orlando.

But Middlesex Company workers got it working again as soon as they could — there’s a financial incentive in their future.

Middlesex is the prime contractor in a turnpike-widening project, set to double the capacity of a 5-mi. stretch of expressway between milepost 254 at the south end of the job and milepost 259 at the north.

The $56.7-million project involves expanding the road’s capacity from four lanes to eight lanes, including widening or reconstructing eight bridges. Three bridges can be widened with existing lane space while the remaining bridges will be reconstructed.

A Bidwell Screed model 4800 is being used for finishing concrete bridge decks.

Middlesex is looking at a March 2008 completion date — or earlier if possible with hopes of taking advantage of Florida Department of Transportation’s “No Excuse Bonus.”

Middlesex Project Manager Jim Carr said the company stands to garner up to an extra $450,000 by finishing 50 days early: “We can earn $9,000 a day for every day we finish ahead of schedule.”

The project was started in May 2005 but Carr said the activity has ramped up considerably since November.

“Especially over the past three months with the dirt work,” Carr said. “We excavated 235,000 cubic yards of dirt off the embankments and we brought in 370,000 cubic yards of new dirt.”

Carr said 50,000 cu. yds. (38,200 cu m) of dirt was removed from a drainage pond near a flood plain located within the project site. That dirt will be incorporated into other portions of the job.

Temporary widening was necessary in some instances to facilitate the permanent road expansion. Carr said 10,000 tons (9,070 t) of provisional asphalt was used to run traffic lanes between bridges during demolition. Eighty-thousand tons of permanent asphalt will be used throughout the job.

While Carr said this is a “pretty straight forward job,” he added that due to the proximity to Orlando International Airport and Interstate 4, there have been some heavier restrictions because of the high-traffic volume.

“We can only do lane closures between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” he said.

Middlesex is using the services of 35 subcontractors, according to Carr, and an average of 90 Middlesex workers are being employed on the project.

Concrete Impressions, a concrete noise barrier company, is the subcontractor for the erection of 3,000 linear ft. (914 m) of soundwalls near a subdivision of mobile homes inside the project site.

In addition to the Manitowoc 888, Middlesex has a rubber-tired Grove RT760 crane and a Link-Belt LS-218H 100-ton crane on site to help with the heavy lifting. Middlesex owns the bulk of the equipment it uses. For excavation, Carr said the company employs John Deere 230 and 330 excavators and a Komatsu PC400 and JC450. The company also gets a lot of use out of several John Deere 650 and 750 dozers.

Prepping for Sod

Massive bulldozing efforts dominated recent work days near the northbound lanes of the southern portion of the site as ponds and side-slopes were being graded in preparation for sod placement.

“We’ll be using a half million square feet of sod for this job,” Carr said. “Coco Sod Farms is our subcontractor.”

Coco Sod operates out of Okeechobee, FL. Ana Bringas, general manager, said the sod business is robust throughout the state.

“We keep a permanent crew of 10 to 12 men on site for the turnpike job,” Bringas said. “As of May 12, we’ve delivered 124 pallets — 55,000 square feet.”

Bringas said the family-owned Coco Sod Farms maintains 12,000 acres (4,860 ha) of Bahia sod. The company uses Texas sod harvesters to remove and process the turf.

“We cut sod the night before we deliver it,” Bringas said. “If the work site is ready for us, we can install up to 10 loads a day.”

Bringas said each truck load carries 18 pallets of 450 sq. ft. (42 sq m) each. Coco Sod Farms began delivery to the turnpike site in March.

Carr said the project includes very few environmental challenges, although widening a bridge over Shingle Creek called for extra precautions.

“We’ll install turbidity barriers in the creek during construction to prevent the flow of sediment and silt runoff,” Carr said.

Three-Phase Project

Christa Deason, FDOT public information officer said the Orlando-area project is phase I of three segments to be implemented over the next several years.

“The second phase from I-4 to Beulah Road will begin in July,” Deason said. “The next phase will go from Beulah Road to milepost 274.”

Deason said this and upcoming projects are of “great importance” for the area, with proximity to the airport, I-4, the Orange Blossom Trail and the Beach Line.

“This is the first major widening of the turnpike since 1964,” she said. “The area is so heavily traveled, lane closures are not permitted.”

According to Deason, the state will spend $1.29 billion in a five-county region over the next five years. CEG

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