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Prince Leads 301 Job Through Busy Downtown Sarasota

Wed December 01, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed

Work is steadily advancing on the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) U.S. 301 Downtown Sarasota Project, which is focused upon improving a 2.65-mi. (4.26 km) stretch of U.S. Route 301 (Washington Boulevard) from Wood Street to Myrtle Street in downtown Sarasota, Fla.

In addition to improving traffic flow through downtown Sarasota with the addition of two new travel lanes north of 12th Street and improved signalization corridor wide, Cindy Clemmons, public information director of Bartow, Fla.-based FDOT District One, said it also will yield benefits for pedestrians, with improvements to existing sidewalks and the introduction of brand-new sidewalks and bicycle lanes along the segment of U.S. 301 from 10th Street to Myrtle Street.

“The work done under this project will improve safety along this corridor and enhance the movement of traffic for not only drivers, but for pedestrians and bicyclists as well,” Clemmons said.

General contractor Prince Contracting LLC, was awarded the contract on April 29, 2009. While the company is headquartered in Tampa, Fla., it has set up a branch office on Myrtle Street in Sarasota to facilitate running the project on the spot. Work began on Oct. 19, 2009, and with a contractual obligation to complete the job within 570 days, the project is currently on schedule for its summer 2011 completion date, according to Robert V. Burr, Prince’s senior project manager.

Providing oversight as Construction Engineering Inspector (CEI) under contract to FDOT is Lehigh Acres, Fla.-based AIM Engineering & Surveying Inc., which oversees two major FDOT road improvement/expansion projects in Sarasota County from a satellite office on Fruitville Road in Sarasota. Tom Deer of AIM is the project engineer.

“As the consulting engineer, AIM’s primary role is to represent FDOT by ensuring that the contractor builds the project on schedule according to the plans and specifications. Now at the half way point, the project is moving along very smoothly, thanks to a high degree of cooperation between the FDOT, contractor, engineer and the city of Sarasota,” Deer said, noting that “working in tight urban quarters” is the contractor’s biggest challenge.”

According to FDOT, Segment 1 covers Wood Street to 12th Street and includes replacement of existing streetlights, new handicap ramps and a traffic signal at 10th Street, and improvements to Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) bus stops. At present (November) most of the handicap ramps and bus stop improvements have been completed. Foundations for the new streetlights are in place and the poles have been erected. The new traffic signal at 10th Street is in place and is scheduled to be activated later this year.

Segment 2 involved the complete reconstruction of the U.S. 301/Fruitville Road intersection. Completed over the weekend of June 11 to 13, work on this section of the job was carried out on a Friday to Sunday schedule to minimize impact on motorists and businesses. The intersection underwent a complete reconstruction, including a new right turn lane from southbound U.S. 301 to westbound Fruitville Road.

Segment 3 stretches from 12th Street to Myrtle Street and covers reconstruction of U.S. 301 to provide six lanes instead of the current four, plus installation of bicycle lanes and sidewalks, new signalization on 12th Street, 17th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and street light replacement. The project also provides utility upgrades, SCAT bus stop improvements, and a retention pond constructed at the end of 21st Street.

To date the Segment 1 and Segment 2 traffic signal mast arms have been installed but are functioning in a construction mode. Curbs and sidewalks along southbound U.S. 301 are largely completed and installation of the new southbound U.S. 301 travel lanes, sewer and water lines is under way.

Retention pond work is ongoing. New sanitary sewer lines are being installed along northbound U.S. 301, with work on the northbound curbs, sidewalks and travel scheduled to begin by the end of this year or early in 2011.

With a wide range of specialists in different disciplines, at peak Prince had about 80 employees working on a daily basis. Local subcontractors handled signalization, lighting, striping, signing, concrete work, fencing, tree trimming, trucking, asphalt paving, directional boring and erosion control for the $14.6 million FDOT-funded contract.

“This project is comprised of several small projects built into one, and is unique in that it is located in a very busy urban corridor,” Burr said. “The most significant challenge has been contending with the tight quarters and the very heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic within this extremely busy corridor.”

“Some unforeseen difficulties have arisen during construction. However, Prince has worked hand-in-hand with FDOT, AIM and the City of Sarasota to identify and solve all of them in a timely manner,” he went on. “The project team is firmly committed to working in a cooperative fashion to identify issues early and resolve them promptly.”

According to Burr, Prince Contracting owns and primarily utilizes Caterpillar heavy machinery on the U.S. 301 Downtown Sarasota Project.

“This project has relied heavily on crawler-mounted hydraulic excavators, 4WD articulated wheeled loaders, LGP crawler dozers, articulated frame graders, and compact track loaders,” Burr said.

Due to the high volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and heavy concentration of office, retail and industrial buildings all along this busy urban corridor, FDOT had the foresight to make “effective communications” a top priority from the very start. Responsibility for keeping citizens, the business community, government officials, the media and other segments of the public well-informed every step of the way rests on the shoulders of Ken Nelson of AIM, who serves as the project’s public information officer (PIO) under contract to FDOT.

Some of the tools employed by the PIO to achieve the communication objectives established by FDOT for this project include the web site; weekly RoadWatch updates and timely press releases disseminated to the media and thousands of other contacts on e-mail distribution lists; face-to-face briefings and updates for businesses and business groups; and regular updates for the Sarasota City Commission and other governmental entities. The PIO also visits businesses within the work zone to advise of impending work that may impact their operations and address any questions and concerns they may have.

Founded in Palmetto, Fla., in 1983 and now part of the international construction services group, SDC Group of Portugal, Prince Contracting LLC, has grown from a grading and earthmoving privately held company with five employees to a business employing 400 employees specializing in heavy and highway projects and site development work. Self performing most of its projects, Prince Contracting was recently listed by the Gulf Coast Business Review as one of the top 40 contractors in Florida.

The company’s primary focus is on transportation and infrastructure development for state and municipal authorities across Florida and the southeast.

Notable projects for the Florida Department of Transportation include widening 3.6 mi. (5.7 km) of Causeway Boulevard in Tampa ($43 million), which will be completed 367 days ahead of schedule; and construction of 2.6 mi. (4.1 km) of four-lane divided highway in Orlando ($34 million).

Ongoing contracts include Bayette Road Phase III in Florida’s Hillsborough County where Prince is converting 2.26 mi. (3.6 km) of roadway from two to four lanes. The $22 million job will take 43 months to complete and includes construction of four signalized intersections, water and sewer services and a new bridge.

As part of its ongoing expansion plans, the company also was responsible for 7.2 mi. (11.5 km) of rural four-lane divided highway for the Georgia Department of Transportation ($29.9 million). CEG

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