A Komatsu PC 400 excavator toiling in the unexpectedly wet soil at the project site.
It has been wet work, much wetter than expected.
But now that north-central Florida has entered its “dry season,” work on a new overpass to carry Fla. 26 over U.S. 301 and the CSX railroad line in Alachua County is getting more productive, said Southland Construction Inc. project manager Eric Eliason.
The Apopka, Fla.-based firm was awarded the $9.96 million contract for the job, which covers 1.75 mi. (2.8 km) and entails a realignment of Fla. 26 and construction of an overpass across the CSX railroad tracks and U.S. 301/Fla. 200 in Orange Heights, Eliason said.
The project is intended to ease traffic and improve safety at the crossroads by allowing motorists on Fla. 26 to travel unobstructed across U.S. 301 and the adjacent, parallel CSX railroad via the roughly 25-ft.-high (7.6 m) overpass, he said.
Work began on the project July 2, with a contract time of 625 days, Eliason said.
“Our initial schedule called for a completion date of November 2009, but revisions to the workflow due to the wetland conditions have pushed our current completion date back to February 2010,” he said, noting that the geotechnicals that the Florida Department of Transportation had used for the bidding information showed wetlands but, based on borings, didn’t indicate standing water. ”We’re basically building the job in the middle of a lake.”
They didn’t have an approved erosion-control plan, just a generic plan, when they were given the job, he said. They hadn’t yet physically gone through the wetlands when they submitted the plan for a general notice of intent.
“We have had to work with the DOT and water management district on developing a plan to work through the standing water,” Eliason said. “These conditions require daily monitoring of the site conditions and construction process to determine if any adjustments or corrections to the proposed plan are needed.”
There are creeks and lakes all around the project, and turbidity is an ongoing concern, requiring daily monitoring, he said.
The plan includes isolating the job with berms and then coming back to remove the trapped water so they can build to grade, Eliason said.
The two-lane overpass is being constructed about 700 ft. (213 m) south of the existing roadway and will have 12-ft. (3.6 m) travel lanes and 10-ft. (3 m) shoulders, according to FDOT.
The road will tie back into Fla. 26 about three-quarters of a mi. east and west of the existing intersection, with connector roads being constructed to access the current at-grade intersection and local businesses, Eliason said.
The scope of the contract includes approximately 450,000 cu. yds. (344,049 cu. m) of embankment, 71,600 sq. yds. (59,866 sq. m) stabilization, 52,000 sq. yds. (43,478 sq. m) of base, the construction of a new storm drainage system and box culvert as well as the new bridge, he said.
Track excavators, bulldozers, wheel loaders, vibratory rollers, motorgraders, cranes and a rubber-tire hoe are working on the job, Eliason said.
It’s a mixture of owned and rented equipment, he said.
The motorgraders are all Caterpillars, and all the excavators in the company except for a Hitachi 450 are Komatsus, Eliason said. Most of the dozers are John Deeres, including a John Deere 750 dozer being used to push fill and a John Deere 650 dozer being used to do fine grading on the embankment.
“We’ve got a lot of embankment on the project,” he said, noting the company hopes to have all the embankment in place by the time the rainy season rolls around again, usually July.
The company will be renting a crane, but the deal hasn’t been finalized, Eliason said.
Southland currently services most of its equipment in-house, but Neff Rental and Linder Industrial Machinery Company handle the service on the company’s newer equipment and rentals, he said.
The project will involve a substantial amount of borrow.
“We are importing approximately 400,000 cubic yards of fill from surrounding fill sources,“ Eliason said. “We will have approximately 50,000 cubic yards of fill on site from the pond construction.”
The job will entail nearly 1,100 cu. yds. (841 cu m) of concrete and 12,000 tons (10,886 t) of asphalt, he said.
The concrete bridge will require 787.30 cu. yds. (601.89 cu m) of concrete, with the box culvert having 300 cu. yds. (229 cu m) of concrete, Eliason said.
As for the asphalt, the project calls for 7,400 tons (6,713 t) for structural and 4,600 tons (4,173 t) for friction, he said.
The project will entail the use of two pipe crews, two earthwork crews, two grade crews and a bridge crew, Eliason said.
“These crews will be phased in and off the project, so the project will probably maintain a level of around 20 employees on any given day,” he said. “Currently, our schedule only necessitates daytime work Monday through Friday.”
Subcontractors working on the project include Ed Smith Construction Company of Atlanta, box culvert; Steven Counts Inc. of Ocala, Fla., asphalt base, structural paving and friction; JVD Construction Inc. of Altamonte Springs, Fla., barrier wall; Infinity Reinforcing Inc. of Palm Coast, Fla., rebar; RES Construction of Orlando, MSE wall; W&S, shoulder gutter; Belcorp Inc., sod; Geotechnical Foundations, pile driving; A-1 Sod, erosion control; Protection Services Inc., traffic management; and PSI, quality control.
The project isn’t adding much to the traffic headaches at the intersection beyond some minor lane closures on U.S. 301 to accommodate the bridge construction, Eliason said.
“Most of the project is outside of the existing roadway footprint,“ he said. “We will have minor traffic reconfigurations and detours when we tie in the road in the final project phases.“
The job is on the eastern edge of Alachua County, roughly a dozen miles from Gainesville, Fla., where it is called University Avenue, Eliason said.
“State Road 26 is a major east-west artery for Gainesville,” he said, “and traffic tends to build up at the intersection during commuting hours in the morning and afternoon … The project is also going to alleviate some of the safety issues concerning the junction of these two major roadways and the railroad in a relatively rural area.”
According to FDOT, more than 9,500 vehicles travel daily on Fla. 26 and more than 11,000 travel daily on U.S. 301. And the numbers increase during University of Florida home football games when fans travel to the school on those roads.
Meanwhile, rail traffic is forecast to increase substantially on the line, meaning more trains to back up Fla. 26 traffic waiting to cross the tracks, Eliason said.
It also could mean more dangerous situations for Fla. 26 traffic backed up at the tracks waiting to travel through the U.S. 301 intersection, he said, noting that the overpass will thin Fla. 26 traffic through the intersection and thus improve safety there.
Southland was attracted to the low-bid contract for several reasons, Eliason said.
“The project was an opportunity to expand our region to DOT District 2, said Eliason, noting the company did work in District 2 several years ago but has not had a large presence in the District recently.
“Southland was attracted to the balanced mix of roadwork and bridge construction in the scope,” he said. “We believe that our roadwork and pipe experience is second to none, and this project also allowed us to continue to develop our burgeoning bridge division.”