The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is in the midst of a $12 million transportation improvement project on U.S. 331 in Walton County.
C.W. Roberts Contracting Inc. of Hosford is constructing the project for the FDOT, District Three. Genesis CE&I Services Inc. of Crestview is providing construction, engineering and inspection support for the FDOT.
According to Doug Pritchard, project administrator of Genesis CE&I Services, the project covers a distance of approximately 2.1 mi. (3.4 km) between the U.S. 331/U.S. 98 intersection and the southern end of the Clyde B. Wells Bridge across Choctawhatchee Bay.
“The project represents a significant step in the upgrade of U.S. 331, a critical north-south transportation artery in Walton County,” said Pritchard.
The project is part of a six phase long range plan to widen (from two to four lanes) a 24-mi. (38.6 km) stretch of U.S. 331 from U.S. 98 to Interstate 10. The current project is the second phase of the proposed plan.
The highway is being widened to increase capacity and also help relieve traffic congestion. Further work includes safety and drainage improvements, new traffic signals, new sidewalks and the construction of bicycle lanes. Work began in August 2008 and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.
FDOT officials say U.S. 331 is a main transportation route in the county for both residents and tourists. Many commuters living in the central and northern part of the county use the route to commute to their jobs in the rapidly growing southern portion of the county. The project is aimed to help traffic flow and improve one of the main hurricane evacuation routes in the region.
According to Pritchard, a variety of earthwork equipment is being used on the project such as excavators backhoes, bulldozers, a sheetpile driver, and a sock-pipe trencher that is used for de-watering activities. Paving equipment includes an asphalt paver (with electronic screed controls), an asphalt distributor, a shuttle buggy, rollers, and a striping truck. Traffic signal equipment includes an auger truck, pump truck, directional drilling equipment, and a bucket truck.
As to the workload, the contractor is using an average of 32 workers of various disciplines and trades. The workers are distributed into crews working 10-hour shifts, five to six days per week. There is occasional night work on the project but it involves the same crews.
“Traffic delays are minimal with the contractor maintaining two-way traffic on U.S. 331,” said Pritchard. “Additionally, lane closures are limited to overnight hours when traffic demand is lowest.”
Pritchard added that the construction team is working proactively with the surrounding commercial and residential property owners to keep them informed on the construction activities, schedules, and potential impacts. A project Web site also has been created (www.MyUS331.com) that reports news and events. In addition, e-newsletters are sent to stakeholders on a regular basis and the consultant regularly conducts door-to-door canvasses in the construction zone to maintain contact with property owners.
The first phase of the overall proposed plan included construction of a new U.S. 331 bypass in Walton County. The route was a 5.6-mi. (9 km), two-lane road running from south of SR 20 to north of Owls Head Road. In addition to building a new roadway, improvements included construction of three bridges, intersection improvements (which included mast arm signals), drainage upgrades, bike lanes, sidewalks, and other safety improvements. Work began in September 2005 and was completed February of last year. The bypass alleviated heavy traffic congestion in the Freeport area. C.W. Roberts Contracting was the prime contractor and Greenhorne & O’Mara performed Consulting Construction Engineering Inspection (CCEI) services for the FDOT.
FDOT is currently attempting to obtain the finances needed for design, right of way acquisition, mitigation and construction of the other four phases of the widening project.
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