A reconstructed section of Interstate 275 has made commuting easier in Tampa, Florida, and has been recognized with three awards for design and construction.
The I-275 reconstruction project has created better traffic flow, easier vehicle access and safer sight distances along a 4.7-mile corridor between State Road 60 and the Hillsborough River traveled by an average of 200,000 vehicles per day.
WSP was the design engineer for the $225 million project, working for a joint venture of Skanska and Ajax Paving Industries on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Honors won by the project include:
“Winning these awards has been very gratifying,” said John Dewey, WSP project manager. “What was especially nice was seeing our firm standing together with Skanska, Ajax and FDOT representatives to receive the Florida Transportation Builders Association’s award in Orlando,” Dewey said.
One of the biggest improvements made possible by the project was the construction of five braided interchanges that were designed and constructed to make it easier for vehicles to enter and exit the highway.
“Before the reconstruction of I-275, the highway had some serious merging issues,” Dewey said. “At the old interchanges, cars were entering and leaving the highway in the same space. The new interchanges eliminated those conflicts.”
In addition, I-275 was expanded from three to four lanes in each direction, and the width between the lanes was increased to accommodate future lane expansion, if needed. A total of 21 bridges and more than 1,000 drainage structures were built as part of the project.
“We were able to flatten the geometry to make driving easier and improve the sight distance,” Dewey said. “Creating better flow and a safer highway was our big-picture goal with this project.”
The joint venture was able to complete the project 139 days early and $30 million under budget, due in part to a scheduling approach proposed by WSP.
“One of the first things we did when we joined the project was to get creative with the plan submittals,” Dewey said. “Rather than submit the entire project before construction began, we broke it into separate packages, divided by geography. We were able to review and approve each section without getting hung up on what might be going on four years down the road.
“It’s an unusual approach, but it made a lot of sense on this job, and we were able to start construction much sooner.” He said demolition of the old highway began six weeks after notice to proceed was received.
On a roadway that connects travelers to the airport, major sports venues and other downtown destinations, FDOT required that construction impact was minimal and allowed traffic to use the roadway throughout all phases of construction. That requirement was made even more challenging by the project’s location in a densely populated area that connects through a network of city streets, most of which predate the construction of the interstate in the 1960s.
“The owner wanted us to engineer the work so that ramps weren’t closed for very long. I think we met that challenge,” Dewey said.
By analyzing current and projected traffic volumes the project team was able to sequence the closure and opening of ramp facilities between interchanges to allow access to commercial and residential hubs. The result was a maintenance of traffic plan that allowed for the movement of vehicles while providing the maximum work zone possible for the contractor.
“We were able to accomplish some interesting things with respect to the structural design,” Dewey said. “One of our suggestions was construction of flat slab bridges, which accomplished what the client needed, but at a lower cost. We took an unconventional approach during the proposal stage with ideas like this, and once we were able to demonstrate the benefits of thinking outside the box, the owner and client opened up to our ideas.”
The project included the introduction of intelligent transportation systems, improved lighting, signalization and landscaping, and the use of concrete pavement over asphalt to extend the maintenance life of the highway.
Some segments of the roadway include aesthetic architectural features that capture the nature of the neighboring communities, including decorative brick towers and globe lighting inspired by the West Tampa National Historic District.
Since work concluded in June, reaction from both FDOT and the public has been favorable.
“Ultimately, this design resulted in significant savings to the taxpayer, which was a testament to our guys getting unconventional with their ideas, lowering the profile of the entire highway, and proposing interesting geometrics,” Dewey said.
Dewey said as many as 50 WSP employees worked on the project, including David Hubbard and Tad Molas, deputy project managers; John Poulson, project director; John Littlefield, drainage lead; and Amanda Correia, traffic lead. In addition, 17 subconsultants were hired to bolster design-build engineering utilization and ensure timely delivery of submittals.
Driving along the reconstructed I-275 nearly every day, Dewey said he is continuously reminded of the importance the project plays in the Tampa community and economy.
“This highway reconstruction was a big thing for all of us who live here, and we are really proud of it,” he said. “There were a lot of hands on this job, and we were all very proud of the final result. This isn’t just a project that we worked on; it’s something we live. It’s a daily reminder that what we do at WSP really benefits people.”
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