A rendering of the I-4 Ultimate.
The I-4 Ultimate megaproject serves as a great example for where the future of transportation is headed globally. Its design and engineering is on the cutting edge of infrastructure development, and the support given to the project by Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) and its dealer Flagler Construction Equipment (Flagler) epitomizes the modern job site.
“What we're seeing at the I-4 Ultimate project is one of the most advanced infrastructure projects in the world,” said Tony Spake, commercial business manager of Volvo CE. “Some 600 engineers contributed to the project's design-engineering, so there are numerous examples of leading safety and traffic flow features. But this project also will help define how future highway systems are financed and managed, and how they will interact with the spaces they inhabit.”
At its essence, the project is a $2.3 billion reconstruction of a 21-mi. stretch of Interstate 4, from west of Kirkman Road in Orange County to east of State Road 434 in Seminole County, cutting through Orlando along the way. The work involves the construction of two dynamic tolled Express Lanes in each direction, 140 bridges, 15 interchanges, nine toll gantries, architectural features and elements, and mixed-use spaces.
SGL Constructors (SGL) is the construction joint venture of Skanska, Granite and Lane. The I-4 Ultimate project is a Public-Private Partnership (P3) among FDOT and I-4 Mobility Partners (I-4MP). The members of the I-4MP team include:
• Skanska Infrastructure Development (equity member)
• John Laing Investments (equity member)
• SGL - Construction Joint Venture — Skanska (lead joint venture partner), Granite Construction and Lane Construction
• HDR and Jacobs Engineering Group (design joint venture)
•Infrastructure Corporation of America (lead operations and maintenance firm)
Experts said that these partnerships among private companies, state governments, municipalities and taxpayers are globally on the rise, and that they improve both the operations of megaprojects and their overall success rate.
“The infrastructure industry has literally transformed itself through PPPs,” said Steven E. Polzin, a director at the Center for Urban Transportation of the University of South Florida. “They improve project financing and increase efficiencies in terms of process and timing. They also do a great job in minimizing the disruption of traffic during construction, which is important because the I-4 reconstruction is a lengthy project. This is a good learning experience and will be a model for future endeavors.”
The use of telematics and predictive analytics also is an increasing global trend in infrastructure construction, and it's being used heavily on the I-4 project. Where construction has lagged behind other industries in adopting new technologies, the lower costs of sensors, cloud connectivity and computing power have all contributed to an increase in the adoption of telematics
Approximately 70 Volvo excavators and compactors are active on the I-4 Ultimate project, and they are all being monitored by Volvo's ActiveCare Direct telematics program. The program can detect critical machine failures and predict maintenance needs, increasing uptime on the project.
Once again, a partnership is key to the program's success. Volvo CE and Flagler are working together to maintain the project's fleet, with Volvo actively monitoring the machines and alerting Flagler to potential issues. Flagler, which sold and rented most of the equipment on the project to SGL, then employs its field technicians to perform a fix or maintenance action on the job site.
“The use of telematics and predictive analytics is set to explode in the construction industry,” said Dave Adams, product sales manager of connected services at Volvo CE. “There are potentially millions, if not billions, in potential savings we could see from increasing machine uptime through a program such as ActiveCare Direct. Not only does it help solve equipment issues more quickly, it helps avoid the catastrophic failures that can bring an entire job site to a halt.”
The I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project is a great example of how an infrastructure project can transcend its core function. While the I-4 corridor is essentially a system of roads and bridges, leading-edge design features will change the face of the communities it serves. The project is on the global forefront of a type of design thinking that creates value where it previously didn't exist.
Take for example the project's environmental considerations, which won the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure's Envision Platinum Certification. Some 99 percent of the concrete and steel removed from old roads and bridges has been recycled, for example, and much of the new I-4 makes use of recycled materials.
Or take into account the many features being built that serve people not actually driving on the highway in vehicles: rail and pedestrian crossings, overpasses and bike trails, mixed-use spaces under bridges and overpasses that will be turned into sporting venues, shopping centers and restaurants.
Aesthetic features, such water fountains, city medallions, LED lighting, artwork and dramatic landscapes will contribute to an overall sense of esteem and pride in the communities along the corridor.
According to Foresight, the global infrastructure report created by professional services firm KPMG, these types of considerations and design features have become expected by the population.
“We have seen increasing pressure on government — and through governments — to prioritize infrastructure investments that deliver greater social and environmental benefit; simply put, to become more responsible leaders.”
Several initiatives that will improve safety and traffic flow along the interstate also reflect global trends, such as the straightening of curves, the leveling of highway grades, the installation of tolled express lanes and the increase in length of acceleration and deceleration lanes for incoming and outgoing traffic.
Floridians said they look forward to the new I-4 corridor. Highways that can move commuters more quickly and safely improve daily life, ease business costs and contribute to a higher standard of living — especially in a region that hosts some of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
“It's a massive, multi-faceted project with a strong Public-Private partnership in an obviously busy corridor that's critical to the region,” Polzin said. “This project will have some physical and social impact, and it will improve mobility in the community, which allows it to thrive, compete, and remain attractive for business and travelers.”