Piers were popping up like huge, gray carrots on a strip of 1-mile land in Tampa, Fla. They were not going to be picked anytime soon, but each one of them will grow into solid foundations that will help alleviate truck traffic caused by the ever-expanding Port of Tampa. I had the chance to walk the I-4/Lee Roy Selmon Connector project in mid-October and the amount of activity on the site restored my faith that the road and bridge industry is still churning out heavy-duty work despite the lack of state and federal funding. The connector, owned and operated by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, is a north-south route that will feature 12 travel lanes divided into six ramp bridges. As you might have already guessed, it will be a tolled corridor, with fees as high as $2.50, that will use SunPass transponders as well as license plate tag readers. The total cost of the project, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2013, is $385 million. The contractor, a joint venture between PCL and Archer Western, is taking on much of the cost, and approximately $100 million is coming from American Recovery & Restoration Act money. The nerve center of this job is on the south end by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, where giant flyover ramps, the highest standing 85 ft high, are being erected piece by piece. I had the chance to scale one of those ramps while on the site, and also was able to climb down into a precast box girder section. Of course, before I could take one step on the ladder the oxygen levels had to be checked. Yeah, that is always comforting. Crews are also dealing with railroad on-site. I was told that trains come through four or five times a day in three different areas of the project, and as luck would have it one crossed our path during the visit. Wait, let me rephrase, the crossing gates crossed our path, and after waiting for about five minutes and not seeing a moving train we decided to seek out another route. Be on the lookout for a jobsite video of the I-4/Lee Roy Selmon Connector project coming soon.
Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.