Workers are hauling fill and embankment for the project using a Komatsu 250 off-road truck and a Cat D6R bulldozer.
Expected to accommodate an estimated 50,000 vehicles per day, the new Metro Extension in Florida will enhance travel to destinations in the southern part of Lee County. Crews are working to complete a new six-lane roadway connecting U.S. 41 and Six Mile Cypress Parkway, while dealing with challenges that are unique to the area.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Public Information Officer Debbie Tower explained, “This new segment will reduce congestion in heavily traveled areas of U.S. 41 in south Fort Myers. The Metro Parkway corridor, as a whole, provides a significant north/south route for drivers in the county and serves as an alternate to U.S. 41. With this project, commerce, industry, seasonal visitors, residents, students and members of the local work force will all benefit.”
Construction cost is approximately $30 million, with CEI costs totaling $4.7 million.
“The contractor is building 3.1 miles of new road, including one bridge/overpass,” said Tower, “So it’s a major construction project. One unique challenge, identified during design, relates to a utility on the job. The project team has coordinated with Florida Power & Light Company regarding clearance under its transmission lines for construction of the overpass. Posen Construction, Estero, Fla., is using splices to connect two piles of different heights to avoid overhead power lines. The team will closely monitor pile driving in the area.”
For those involved in the project, monitoring daily activity and staying in touch is crucial in completing the task at hand. According to Tim Hendrix, FDOT construction project manager, “Communication that’s clear and effective is always the biggest asset in overcoming challenges or addressing issues.”
Tom Deer, who serves as project engineer for AIM Engineering, added, “We serve as an extension to FDOT and coordinate all aspects of construction. Our approach to the project begins with understanding the project’s key components —identified on this job as roadway features like large box culverts, critical bridge features, protecting the environment, coordination with Seminole Gulf Railroad LP [as the bridge/overpass crosses over railroad track] and maintaining public awareness.”
The number of construction workers changes during the life of the project, depending on the activity under way. During pile driving, embankment and box culvert work, as many as 125 people a day have been on the job. Currently, the contractor has 20 to 30 people on-site doing drainage, concrete and erosion control work and preparing for the first bridge footer. Generally, the contractor works a 10-hour shift five or six days a week. Depending on what’s taking place, crews have worked both day and night. Some concrete pours have been done late in the evening, as has the delivery of embankment material.
Posen Construction Project Manager Joe Satyshur explained, “Hard work, proper and timely coordination, and effective communication is the way to build this job. Safety is our first priority, and it’s been an extremely hot summer in southwest Florida, compared to the past couple summers. We’re making sure our field personnel are hydrated and working effectively.”
To date, FDOT has granted four extra weather days because of weather effects during critical bridge construction.
Rainy weather is common during Florida summers, and crews continue to work on a daily basis to protect surrounding wetlands.
Wild, Wild Life
Environmental challenges are not uncommon to construction projects in Florida, and this project is no exception, particularly in view of the varied wildlife in the area. The project will install two wildlife crossings for raccoons, feral hogs, bobcats and coyotes. As they build the job, crews are avoiding endangered species like gopher tortoise, fox squirrel, and eastern indigo snake in the area. Crews also are carefully working around alligators and wading birds.
Installation and maintenance of erosion control devices are essential with wetlands surrounding the new roadway alignment. Erosion control prevents discharge into these adjacent wetlands and maintains water quality of Six Mile Cypress Slough and Estero Bay.
Managing traffic during construction has not been a factor since the project builds a new road where none existed before. When crews tie into the north and south road network, there will be some lane closures, etc. as work approaches those intersections.
A Year In
Work on the project started in September 2009 and is expected to be completed by February 2012. FDOT’s construction project manager is overseeing the job, working closely with the consultant, providing construction, engineering and inspection services for the project. AIM Engineering is the CEI and serves as an extension of the department, monitoring and inspecting construction activities on a daily basis, ensuring the job is built in compliance with all permits and meets all FDOT standards and specifications.
According to Tower, communication among the project team also is highlighted as a project challenge, so emphasis on clear, ongoing follow-up continues throughout the job. Members hold weekly progress meetings to ensure effective communication and timely coordination.
Embankment materials used to prepare the new roadbed include approximately 532,000 cu. yds. (406,743 cu m). Asphalt for roadway base, structural pavement and the final layer totals approximately 54.2 tons (49.1 t).
Concrete used for the bridge, roadway elements such as curb and median, the 200 drainage structures, three box culverts and two wildlife crossings totals approximately 18,200 cu. yds. (13,914 cu m).
“To date, the contractor has imported about 75 percent of embankment material for the project,” said Tower. “Crews continue to install storm water drainage throughout the job and do work at a retention pond and on box culverts. Crews also have driven several piles for the bridge.
Work also is underway at an animal crossing concrete pour.”
Crews still must complete wildlife crossings, box culverts and remaining drainage structures, as well as the roadway bed and placement of all asphalt. Crews must also finish the bridge, which involves drive piles, building footers, columns and wall, and placing the bridge deck.
The project is the first in Lee County to be contracted and funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. CEG