Florida Transportation Builder, Spring 2011
Lane Construction Completes S.R. 528 Emergency Bridge Reconstruction in 22 days
By Lori Murray, TriAd Inc.
On January 21, a tragic accident on State Route 528 near Merritt Island left the community in a state of upheaval. That Friday afternoon a tanker truck loaded with approximately 8,000 gallons of gasoline was heading westbound on S.R. 528 when it collided with a pickup truck. The drivers of both vehicles lost control, and the tanker exploded, sending a fireball nearly 200 feet into the air. Both vehicles fell between the two bridges, causing two fatalities and widespread fire damage to the bridges. It meant that two major roadways would be shut down for at least a month.
Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) arrived on the scene while the clean-up was still taking place. It set up a meeting for the next day and selected three contractors to submit bids for the bridges’ emergency reconstruction. The Lane Construc- tion Corp. of Maitland surfaced as the low bidder and was awarded the $2.191 million contract. “We worked all day Saturday until midnight and turned in the bid at 8 a.m. the next day,” said Gary Jerabek, district manager for Lane Construction. “We had to name the number of days it would take us to complete the project.” According to the contract, Lane Construction would be required to pay $50,000 per day in penalties if they did not meet the deadline.
In spite of the short, 25-day timeline, the proj- ect was no small task. Two of the three spans had to be replaced on both bridges, as well as most of the sub-structure (columns and caps). Only the footings remained in place. Neverthe- less, timeliness was a big issue, as S.R. 528, also known as the Beachline Expressway, and S.R. 3 (Courtenay Blvd.), are heavily traveled roads and are depended on daily by thousands of motorists. The routes provide access to the Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral, area schools, local retailers and beaches. Approximately 30,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day. The roadwork would mean traffic hassles and detours for motorists, and news of an impending space shuttle launch further heightened the need to act quickly.
From the beginning, it was clear that this would be an around-the-clock project. “It’s pretty well charred. The pavement is pretty much worn away from the heat and from the petroleum product, which pretty much eats away your asphalt,” said DOT Spokesman Steve Olson just a few days after the accident. “This will most likely be a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a- week project.” Initial estimates indicated that the reconstruction would take approximately a month.
Fortunately, the experts at Lane Construction immediately developed strategies to facili- tate and expedite the project. Not the least of these was developing a realistic schedule and timeline. Although highway construction is not typically thought of as being vertical con- struction, bridge work is. Construction had to happen from the bottom up, which meant that a problem with a single item could potentially stall the entire project. Organization was the key to a successful project. “We have a good workforce, and we knew we had to work two shifts around the clock. We needed the right supervision to manage that operation in order to get the work done,” Jerabek said.
Lane Construction also wasted no time selecting good subcontractors they had worked with in the past. Among others, Finley Engineering was hired to perform beam calculations; Acme Bar- ricades supplied the necessary maintenance of traffic items; and VA Paving provided the asphalt paving for the project. These subcontractors not only played a critical role in the initial stages of the project but throughout the bridge rehabilita- tion project.
Immediately upon being awarded the contract, two detours were established to provide the pub- lic with much-needed direction. This involved re-routing Beachline traffic across the closed S.R. 3. To increase capacity, the ramps were widened with temporary pavement. “This is one of the main roads leading to Kennedy Space Center. Commuters could have been impacted by an extra hour, but the detour was so well con- structed that they were only delayed about 10 or 15 minutes,” explained Melissa Stains, president and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “The detour was manned correctly, and it kept us from having back-ups.”
Thanks to an experienced estimating staff, a day-by-day schedule was established, and by Day 3, the demolition process was complete. Clean up and prep continued, and on Day 5 the columns and caps were poured monolithically. “This was something we had never done before, but we came up with it for this project,” said Project Manager Chris DuBois. “We used 5500 psi concrete for everything. The higher strength has a higher weight of cement per cubic yard, so it reaches strength more quickly. Using 3400 psi would have taken maybe four or five days.”
Another thing that made it possible to finish the project in such a timely manner was the fact that the roads were closed. “Normally we have to use lane closures and work in smaller areas,” Du- Bois explained. “In this case, the entire intersec- tion was open for us to work on 24 hours a day.” The project continued on schedule. Day 10 was devoted to beam setting, and on Day 13, the over- hangs and deck forms were placed. The project moved around the clock at a rapid pace, and early on Day 17, they started the deck pour. By the next day, the decks were in place, edge forms were removed, and the barrier wall steel was also in place. The remaining five days of the project were left for bridge rails, deck grooving, milling, re- surfacing roadway approaches and final striping. Lane Construction finished the project ahead of schedule at exactly 21 days and six hours.
When the bridge reconstruction was complete, it seemed there was nothing but goodwill between the workers and the area residents. During the construction process, local Girl Scouts troops baked cookies for the crew members; area church groups made desserts; Domino’s sent pizzas to the night crew; and some people even supplied coffee for the workers. Second graders from the local elementary school shared their drawings of the bridge. When the bridge reopened on a Sun- day afternoon, the workers lined the side of the road, people cheered, and drivers honked their horns as they passed. “I am proud of the public’s response to this project,” Jerabek said.
Several weeks after the project’s completion, rep- resentatives from Lane Construction continued to interact with the general public. DuBois and members of his team visited the local elemen- tary school where they presented the kids with toy bulldozers as gifts. And at the recent FTBA Construction Conference, which included con- tractors, owners and engineers from around the state, Lane Construction was recognized for its exemplary work on the project.
“I am amazed at how quickly the project was completed. The workers were courteous, and they put us back into business mode quickly,” Stains said. “The whole project was incredibly well managed. Businesses north of S.R. 3 felt the impact, but it was short-lived.”
Still, Jerabek is quick to note that the circum- stances under which this occurred were obvi- ously tragic, considering that two lives were lost. In the end, it was comforting that the project went as well as it did. “The dedication of our employees and the response from all our subs was amazing,” he said.
The positive reaction from the public made it even better. “It was a tragic accident in our area, but it was an incredible job on the part of the construction company,” Stains said.