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Tampa Connector Project Boasts Unique Features

Fri March 18, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Mary Reed

It’s been a long time getting into gear, but a project in Tampa finally under way has three unusual features.

Not only is the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector one of the first roads in the United States to have dedicated truck lanes serving a port, but it also is the biggest contract District 7 of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has offered for bid as well as one of a handful of FDOT projects in which the contractor is participating in the construction financing plan.

The price tag for the long-awaited $390 million project will be covered by approximately $91 million in federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with the balance contractor-financed. Final payment is scheduled for fiscal year 2018, based on the cash availability schedule as set in the Request for Proposal.

Long and Winding Road

“The mile-long north-south highway will link I-4 and the Selmon Expressway in Tampa, both major east-west corridors. Once open, the Connector will alleviate heavy truck traffic from nearby Ybor City, a National Historic District, and funnel port-bound vehicles away from city streets,” said the project’s Public Information Officer John McShaffrey.

The Connector also was designed to limit impact on the community of Palmetto Beach, which is eligible for Historic District designation, and will provide an additional evacuation route as needed. In addition, it had to be designed to cross a number of urban streets, State Road 60, and CSX railroad tracks, as well as incorporate new interchanges into I-4 and the Selmon Expressway.

A joint venture comprised of PCL Civil Constructors Inc., based in Tampa, Fla., and Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta, known as PCL/Archer Western, a Joint Venture, is serving as lead general contractor for the construction of the 12-lane elevated highway, a complex project involving:

• 31 bridges, 13 of which are segmental, where both span by span and balanced cantilever construction methods are being employed.

• I-4 bridges over 26th Street to be widened to accept the new ramps to/from the Connector.

• Multiple one- and two-lane ramps.

The job includes a state-of-the-art toll facility with an all-electronic collection system that will allow traffic to maintain highway speeds.

“The electronic open road tolling will be done through SunPass and Toll-by-Plate tolling, with the tolling equipment housed in a specially designed gantry that spans all lanes of the highway,” McShaffrey explained. “The gantry will have ground-level access for maintenance of toll equipment, allowing people to work from within the gantry to avoid disrupting traffic below.”

The project is being carried out in a cooperative effort by District 7 of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Turnpike Enterprise (a division of FDOT), and the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority.

Groundbreaking took place at an April 2010 ceremony in Tampa attended by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and other dignitaries.

Notice to proceed was received on March 1, 2010 and the work is currently on schedule.

With more than 300 employees on the job, PCL/Archer Western, a Joint Venture, is currently doing borings for, and installing, drilled shafts, substructure concrete footings, columns, and caps, as well as erecting segments cast at its segment yard. Construction of MSE walls and embankments also is a focus now. In addition, they are constructing the toll gantry and installing utilities. Temporary asphalt work on the Selmon Expressway and I-4 has been completed.

Steady Work

The remaining work to be carried out by the Joint Venture includes more casting and erection of segments, boring and installation of drilled shafts, substructure footings, columns, and caps, and the intelligent transport system (ITS). They also will be carrying out erection of MSE walls and embankment and lighting, utility and storm drainage work.

“We are fielding multiple Caterpillar series 200, 300 and 400 excavators and 80 HP and 100 HP dozers along with three and five cubic yard Volvo front end loaders as well as a number of Link-Belt, Grove, Mi-Jack, and Manitowoc 60 ton to 300 ton hydraulic and lattice boom cranes. We’re also utilizing pickups, fork lifts, compactors, welders, generators and vibratory and impact hammers manufactured by Ford, Caterpillar, Ingersoll Rand, and American Piledriving,” said the Joint Venture’s Regina E. Rehfield.

As with any job of this size and complexity, the Joint Venture has utilized its experience on similar projects to identify and provide unique solutions to the project. One such solution was the use of mobile segment lifters on the balanced cantilever spans, which allows for the segments to be lifted and transported from the piers to the end of the segment.

Completion of the Connector is scheduled for 2013, which will allow Tampa to take advantage of the Panama Canal’s expanded capacity to handle larger cargo and container ships when it is fully operational in 2014. Currently the port is the destination for about 11,000 trucks daily, and the enhanced traffic flow once the Connector is completed will mean more business can be handled by the port.

About the Companies

The PCL family of companies is a group of independent construction companies which carry out diverse operations in the civil infrastructure, heavy industrial, and buildings markets. Together, these companies have an annual construction volume of more than $6 billion, making them the seventh largest contracting organization in the United States. Offices are strategically located in 27 major North American centers to support work across the continental United States, Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean and Canada.. For more information visit PCL’s Web site at

Archer Western Contractors Ltd is a general contracting, construction management and Design-Build firm. Archer Western is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walsh Group, a firm currently ranked among the nation’s Top 20 Contractors according to Engineering News-Record.

The company performs work in various building, civil and transportation sectors across the United States.

The Walsh Group has invested over $500 million in equipment and regularly employs over 6,000 professionals.

For more information visit The Walsh Group’s web site at CEG

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