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Ranger Pushes SR-414 Project Toward an Early Completion

Mon August 25, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Carl Thiemann

Keeping road construction projects on schedule is a challenge in any location. But in Florida during the summer, when its “Sunshine State” motto packs up and heads out on vacation, daily downpours can wash away even the most conservative production estimates.

So Ranger Construction’s North Division took full advantage when dry weather and plenty of available equipment allowed huge production advances on a $105 million SR-414/John Land Apopka Expressway project in Orange County. The 2.7-mi. (4.3 km) elevated roadway, with 23 sections of reinforced earth wall towering up to 60 ft. (18 m) high, was scheduled for completion in mid-2009, but is now expected to be finished by year-end.

Clear Skies, Ready Fleet

For once, Mother Nature heard Florida’s collective summertime chant and made the “rain, rain, go away.” Months of unseasonably dry weather gave earthmoving crews a great opportunity to get well ahead of schedule. They excavated and placed as much as 35,000 cu. yd. (26,800 cu m) a day to build up the elevated roadway and the many reinforced earth walls that support much of its length.

But to haul 3 million cu. yd. (2.3 million cu m) of material you’d need a vast fleet of trucks — far more than one might expect to round up in a busy market like Orlando.

In other years, that might be the case. But with other major projects in the area either winding down or not yet bid, there was an abundance of available haul trucks just waiting to hit pay dirt.

Ranger put up to 150 dump trucks a day to work — 10 times the number that might normally be available — to keep pace with its accelerated earthmoving schedule.

“Any other time during the past 10 years, if I had called and requested even 30 trucks, I’d be lucky to get half that amount,” said Project Manager Scott Fowler, who used Star Hauling to supply the vehicles.

Wells Keep Water Flowing

Even with cooperative weather and plenty of trucks, the road to production still faced a speed bump along the way — a big, dusty speed bump. Crews were able to move massive quantities of earth, but it was all bone-dry. Without at least some moisture, the material couldn’t be compacted enough to meet density requirements.

Normally on Florida projects, “fill” dirt dug from retention ponds or other “borrow” areas has plenty of moisture in it — sometimes too much, especially during the rainy season, requiring pumps to extract the excess prior to excavation. But dry earth must be watered as it is placed, so it can be compacted enough to support eventual traffic loads.

And while Ranger had permitted and drilled an onsite well to provide water, it didn’t yield enough for the increased production rates. Fortunately, Ranger’s well of good luck was still flowing. In yet another favorable turn in the road, project engineers discovered two additional wells within the project boundaries — dug years earlier for agricultural irrigation — and put them into service.

Combined, the wells kept enough supply on tap so Ranger could operate up to five water trucks a day during its peak of production, allowing compaction of the roadway material and keeping haul road dust to a minimum.

By the time the job is finished, Ranger’s Quality Control team will have conducted more than 12,000 density tests to ensure compaction of the road base, subgrade, utilities backfill, embankments and nearly two dozen sections of reinforced earth wall supporting the roadway.


The SR-414/John Land Apopka Expressway job presented some very favorable job site conditions and the entire project team worked hard to make the most of them, Fowler noted, turning Ranger’s largest project to date into one of its most successful, as well.

That same sense of teamwork also enabled Ranger North to get well ahead of schedule on another sizable project, widening a section of US-27 in Clermont, Fla. Valued at more than $25 million, that contract was completed near the end of 2007, more than 100 days early.

Carl Thiemann is Vecellio Group’s communications director.

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