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Features - May 2009

iROX is Rockin’!

Interstate 75 Road Expansion in Southwest Florida Nearly a Year Ahead of Schedule

By Debra Wood

The $430.4-million, 30-mi-long Interstate 75 Road Expansion Project, also called iROX, is nearly a year ahead of schedule and tracking for a $15 million bonus. The project let by the Florida Department of Transportation uses an innovative design-build-finance approach. 

“This project has gone better than any of us believed in our wildest imagination,” says Richard Dun, project director for ACCI/API, a joint venture of Anderson Columbia Co. of Lake City, Fla., and Ajax Paving Industries of Nokomis, Fla. “We haven’t put it in the bank yet, but we are shooting for the full bonus.”

The joint venture can earn $100,000 per day for each day the job finishes before its December 2010 scheduled completion, up to 150 days.

The project includes widening the interstate from four to six lanes from the Golden Gate Parkway in Collier County to Colonial Boulevard in Lee County, with a 12-ft travel lane and 10-ft shoulder placed in the former median; reconstructing four bridges; widening 20 bridges; constructing 23 stormwater ponds; and placing the associated piping and drainage structures.         Crews had finished half of the bridges by March and nearly completed another quarter of them. Mike Horan, president of Ajax, says bridge work will wrap up this summer.

The I-75 job is FDOT’s first design-build-finance project. The delivery method accelerated the work, which could have taken 15 years or more to design and build as separate projects.

“By taking on the finance component and putting it in the contract, it’s allowed us to get this 30 mi done more quickly, and the need is critical,” says Bill Jones, iROX project director for FDOT.

Horan adds: “We’ve done it with good people, good equipment and good weather, in that order. There was good planning and organizational management. We spent a lot of time preplanning, hunkering down in the office in a coordinated effort to get everyone going in the same direction. And it paid off.”

Planning the work

HDR of Omaha joined ACCI/API within 10 days after the contractors agreed to partner in 2006. To speed activity, the team divided the project into five sections for design, permitting and construction. “It allowed us to start certain phases of the work earlier than would have been possible, and it gave us an advantage of a learning curve as we progressed to the later stages of design and construction,” Dun says.

Multiple HDR offices helped with the design. The team also brought in subcontractors early, during the proposal stage.

“That gave our subcontractors a sense of ownership in the design and construction, which motivated them,” Dun says. “Secondly, it provided us with the opportunity to do multiple constructability reviews as the design progressed. We were able to take advantage of the technical expertise of the individuals who were actually going to do the work.” 

The South Florida Water Management District reviewed environmental resource permits for each section rather than the entire project. Dun says that streamlined the process.

“We actively participated as a designer and contractor in the permit process, in discussions and negotiations with the water management district,” he says. “It’s not typical for the contractor to get the opportunity to do that. Design-build offers that opportunity, and we took advantage of it.”

Moving forward

ACCI/API broke ground in October 2007, before final designs were completed. It began by milling and overbuilding the outside shoulders to shift traffic away from the construction zone. The team had divided the bridges into three design packages—foundations, substructure and superstructure.

“They were driving piles for the foundations and doing that construction before we submitted the final superstructure,” says Dave Gilbert, project manager for HDR. “They were about eight months into construction once our plans were approved, and we had permits.”   

More than 450 people have been working on the job each day, plus about 150 to 200 truck drivers, Horan says.

“It’s like ants out there,” Gilbert adds. “They are all over the place.”

Crews have milled and resurfaced the existing lanes with structural asphalt. Paving progresses on the new lanes. Fifty-six of the 60 new lane miles have been completed. Laying the final friction course will begin this summer.

Onsite changes

“We’re always looking for ways to get the job done better and faster,” Horan adds.

The team tweaked traffic flow and other components of the job.

“The  joint venture would think of something one way, and the engineering some other way,” Gilbert says. “We’d work it out and come up with something that was even better than what either one of us envisioned. There was a lot of synergy.”

iROX is Rockin’!
(Photo courtesy of iROX)

HDR has five engineers—senior bridge, drainage and roadway engineers and a senior environmental scientist—onsite to quickly answer any questions that come up in the field, which saves on turn-around time.

Gilbert says problems are solved “at the source.”

The environmental specialist gave everyone onsite access to an expert to call attention to potential issues and quickly and proactively address concerns, Dun adds.

ACCI/API has come up with different ways of doing some aspects of the work, which were not part of the original design, such as pipe runs, slurry-wall construction and the cable barrier system to separate north and southbound traffic.

“A lot of these things you cannot see when you are doing a plan at a desk,” Gilbert says. “In the field, things look a lot different.”

Gilbert says that in most cases, the team has used better materials than were called for to speed construction, such as a Gibraltar cable barrier, which allows 30-ft spacing of the posts rather than 15 ft.

“Now they have bigger posts and a more stable system,” Gilbert says. “We were not required to use the admixtures we’ve been using in the Superpave, yet it helps us place it easier, faster and smoother. By using the mixtures, things have gone better.”

Every entity involved in the project, including the South Florida Water Management District and local governments, signed a formal partnering agreement. Horan says the job has run smoothly because of the people involved in iROX and the relationship building that has occurred.

“The most important thing about this project has been the level of teamwork and cooperation we have been able to engender in everyone involved,” Dun adds. “This project is a case study in what people can do if they will sit and put aside traditional concepts and biases and truly focus on getting a project done.”


Useful Sources:

I-75 Road Expansion Project


iROX Project Team:

Owner: Florida Department of Transportation
Design, Build, Finance Partners: ACCI/API, a joint venture of Anderson Columbia Co., Lake City, Fla.; and Ajax Paving Industries, Nokomis, Fla.; and HDR, Omaha, Neb.
Construction Engineering and Inspection: Metric Engineering, Miami


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