U.S. 17 is a major north-south arterial in the state of Florida, and provides the most direct route between Orlando and the southwest part of the state. Traversing through the cities of Punta Gorda, Arcadia, Zolfo Springs, Wauchula, Fort Meade and Bartow, the corridor serves as a major trucking route through these communities with 24-hour truck volumes of 24.5%. The main goal of the project was to improve corridor safety within Zolfo Springs given the significant amount of truck traffic along the corridor, as well as intersecting truck traffic entering U.S. 17 from S.R. 66. The work is expected to improve corridor safety given the newly constructed four-lane divided roadway with bike lanes and sidewalks, the 52-ft-wide raised median, and a traffic signal at the U.S. 17/S.R. 66 intersection.
One unique aspect of the project included designing and constructing the mainline travel lanes as a rigid, 12-in.-thick plain cement concrete with doweled transverse and longitudinal joints. The total quantity of concrete paved was just under 47,000 sq yd. The new U.S. 17 alignment also was constructed within an abandoned railroad R/W corridor, located just east of the existing U.S. 17 alignment. This element required the team to address potential contamination encountered during roadway construction.
In order to expedite construction and minimize disruption to the traveling public, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) implemented an A+B alternative bid with a maximum incentive bonus of no more than $550,000, equating to a maximum 100-day bonus of $5,500 per day, which was achieved in full. FDOT originally estimated the project’s construction duration to be 800 days. The original contract time bid by Ajax Paving was 485 with the 100-day incentive bonus. “The primary key which allowed Ajax to complete construction within this timeframe centered around their alternate traffic control plan (TCP), designed by Ajax’s specialty engineer,” James Mount, P.E., senior project engineer for JMT, told Roads & Bridges. “The alternate TCP allowed Ajax to maintain traffic on the proposed special detour and essentially complete construction on other aspects of the project in the bonus timeframe.”
The U.S. 17 project faced its share of challenges related to significant weather events during construction, as the team lost about 58 days from being in the path of Hurricane Irma, effects from Tropical Storm Emily and extremely heavy seasonal rains. The project suffered significant levels of rainfall, estimated at 90 in., throughout the entire construction duration. Due to Florida’s declared state of emergency during Irma, FDOT allowed original contract time to be increased by an additional 12 days to provide contractor recovery in the aftermath of the hurricane. Despite this, work was completed in about 290 “actual days worked” with no contractor claims.
Location: Zolfo Springs, Fla.
Owner: Florida DOT
Designer: Comprehensive Engineering Services Inc.
Contractor: Ajax Paving Industries of Florida
Cost: $14.5 million
Length: 1.11 miles
Completion Date: April 13, 2018