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R.B. Baker Rushes to Rescue Rapidly Decaying Highways

Wed November 01, 2000 - Southeast Edition
David Liller

A pair of construction projects set for highways in St. Augustine are expected to provide a much-needed update for the historic Florida city.

That’s according to Thomas Mobley, a project engineer with Reynolds, Smith and Hills Construction Services. Mobley said his company is working with the Florida Department of Transportation on the two construction jobs in St. Johns County. The work centers around St. Augustine, which in 1565 became the site of the first permanent settlement in what would become the United States.

The first project involves resurfacing 15 mi. (24 km) of U.S. 1 from the City of Saint Augustine to the Duval County Line. U.S. 1 is a popular highway that runs the length of Florida’s east coast and provides travelers with mixtures of scenery including cities, towns, countryside and beaches.

Mobley said the work was ordered by FDOT to upgrade a section of U.S. 1 that is heavily traveled by commuters. He said the roadway is experiencing decay in this area and needs resurfacing and drainage improvements.

“This is a four-lane section that has gone without maintenance for about 15 years,” he said. “The surface is definitely starting to deteriorate.”

The engineer said R.B. Baker Construction is the general contractor on the $9.6 million project.

“We haven’t started yet. We’re set to begin in January 2001 and the work should take about 10 months,” he said.

Mobley said a small number of heavy equipment will be used in the project. including dump trucks, pavers, rollers, front-end loaders and backhoes. He said the work will take place during the day and shouldn’t prove to be a problem for traffic. Some work will need to take place at night in order to prevent commuter traffic jams.

Mobley said much of the same type of equipment can be found at another highway project in St. Augustine, with one notable exception. The engineer said the second job employs the use of a large truck crane to help replace two worn-out bridges.

The bridges allow State Road 16 to span the San Sebastian Inlet. Mobley said the pair have been in service since the 1950s and have come to the end of their usefulness.

“They are now considered functionally obsolete and they have suffered considerable deterioration,” Mobley said.

Superior Construction of Jacksonville is the contractor for the $4.5-million project, Mobley said. He said the task involves replacing the dual bridges with a single bridge. He added that the new span will run about 710 yds. (650 m) long and will be a flat-deck design of reinforced concrete.

Mobley said the work on this project will involve some significant challenges. He said S.R. 16 is a heavily-used highway and that means the road will have remain open to traffic while work is progressing. The engineer said the crane, which will be used to set bridge pylons and lift concrete, will have to work in a tight area.

“It’s a very restricted area; there’s not much room to work in,” Mobley said. “There’s not much right-of-way and what there is has a lot of stuff in it.”

Mobley said the project began on Sept. 22 and is expected to last 14 months.

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