Middlesex-Herzog JV Expands SunRail Commuter Rail System
The crowd buzzed with excitement as a SunRail train rolled into sight at the groundbreaking for Central Florida’s $187 million, 17.2-mile Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission (SunRail) extension into Osceola County.
“This is an important day for Central Florida,” says Representative John Mica (R-Florida) at the groundbreaking. “This is the beginning of a regional system.”
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) selected the joint venture of Middlesex-Herzog to design and build SunRail’s southern extension. The Middlesex Corp. of Orlando, and Herzog Contracting Corp. of St. Joseph, Missouri, teamed up for the job and are working as a fully integrated entity, with both companies contributing employees to the project. The two companies have worked together in the past in the Northeastern United States.
“We picked each other based on the varying experience in different elements of heavy civil construction,” says Deron Haptonstall, Project Manager with Herzog. “We have the best team to build the job.”
Middlesex has a long history of working for FDOT and is primarily a heavy/highway contractor, while Herzog has extensive experience in building rail lines and other civil construction. They brought in Jacobs of Pasadena, California, to design and engineer the project.
“Rail is not a standard mode of transportation in Florida, so it’s nice to be in on the ground floor,” says Tracy Hood, Design Manager and Region 1 Operations Manager for Jacobs in Tampa, Florida. “It’s exciting to be part of this new and up and coming system.”
The Federal Transit Administration provided half of the funding for the southern expansion, the state of Florida 25 percent and local funding partners the remaining 25 percent.
Yvette Taylor, Region IV Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, praised Central Florida’s leaders for “doing what they said they would do.” She thanked them for making transportation a priority, recognizing the congestion and implementing the proactive approach FDOT is taking.
The current SunRail line began operations on May 1, 2014, and serves 12 stations between DeBary in Volusia County and Sand Lake Road, south of the city of Orlando. SunRail has plans for an airport spur, where a $470 million intermodal center is already under construction, and a northern expansion 12 miles deeper into Volusia County. Once the airport expansion takes place, SunRail will operate seven days per week, rather than the existing weekday service.
“A strong transit infrastructure is key to economic vitality,” says Buddy Dyer, Mayor of the City of Orlando and Chairman of Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission. He called mass transit important for the future of the community.
The new 17.2-mile extension will use the existing CSX Transportation rail corridor, which the state of Florida purchased in 2011 for $432 million. CSX, Amtrak and other trains, including trains from Middlesex’s asphalt and aggregate facility 3 miles south of the last SunRail station at Sand Lake Road, can continue to use the rail line from midnight until 5 a.m. So, Middlesex-Herzog will need to coordinate with train operators to keep the existing service operating.
Constructing New Lines
The scope of work entails building four new stations, making grade crossing improvements at 24 locations, constructing vehicle storage and layover facilities at the Poinciana station, putting in an upgraded signal system, and installing a second track along most of the corridor, so that two trains can operate simultaneously in two directions.
“This project involves a lot of different aspects, the roads for the crossings, rail, the buildings and interaction with the signals and communication,” Hood says. “It’s fun to work with.”
Middlesex-Herzog will add the 70,000-feet of new track primarily between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Crews also will rehabilitate 20,000 feet of track and improve street crossings. All of the work takes place at grade.
“It’s a very aggressive schedule, $148 million in design and construction within 761 days,” said Al Aponas, President of the Southeast Region for Middlesex.
Haptonstall concurred saying, the “schedule is the key focus. We have to be ready for SunRail to operate on February 1, 2018.”
An early contract milestone is the design and construction of the Shingle Creek Bridge, which Aponas reports is in fair to poor condition. Middlesex-Herzog must have a new bridge ready within 180 days. Work at the Shingle Creek Bridge has started. Crews have been working on clearing and grubbing, erosion control and site access roads.
Accessing the construction site presents a challenge, since some of the site is far from roadways, so materials must be hauled in on the line, Hood says. He also commended the team for making safety a priority.
The design-build contract includes $35 million in signal work, which will be subcontracted to Herzog Technologies.
“To maintain full control over the schedule, it’s key having that in-house capabilities to self-perform the major items of work,” Aponas says. “It makes the coordination efforts seamless.”
Subcontractor Dana B. Kenyon of Jacksonville, Florida, will build the four stations at Meadow Woods, a housing development in Orange County; the Tupperware Station, near Tupperware Corp. headquarters; the Kissimmee Station, adjacent to the current Amtrak station in downtown Kissimmee; and the Poinciana station, another housing development in Osceola County. That station will be near a Valencia College location now under construction.
The Meadow Woods location is currently a park and ride facility. It previously had a convenience store on it, but that has already been demolished to make way for the station. The Kissimmee station is an existing facility shared with Amtrak and local bus service, and the Tupperware and Poinciana stations are green fields.
Mica reported $794 million in construction of commercial space and 1,504 residential units have been completed along the existing rail line. More than $500 million is currently under construction along the route, and $1.8 billion in projects are in the pipeline, announced or under review.
“Just think of the jobs and economic opportunities for the future,” Mica says.
Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer adds that SunRail will bring prosperity to her county and mentioned property values within a half mile radius are estimated to be worth about $412 million in 2028 due to transit-oriented development expected to be built in the 10 years after the trains start running.
At the Tupperware station, Tupperware Brands’ Deerfield Land Corp. has announced plans to build a mixed-use development, including office, retail, residential, senior living and hotel space, on 150 acres surrounding the station. At the groundbreaking, Tom Roehlk, a Tupperware Vice President, announced that two parcels are under contract for residential apartments adjacent to the Tupperware station.
The apartment complexes Crescent Central Station, with 279 units, and The Sevens have added housing near the Downtown Orlando station. And the Ivy Residences at Health Village were built near the Florida Hospital station.
In Seminole County, Picerne Development of Altamonte Springs, Florida, is building the 102-unit affordable housing complex City Park at Merritt Street near to the Altamonte Springs station. The developer received Florida Housing Finance Corp. tax credits.
Farther north, the 208-unit Weston Park at Longwood Station is completed and sits adjacent to the Longwood station and as does the Station House adjacent to the Lake Mary station.
In a statement, Mayor Dyer said that SunRail’s expansion will increase access to jobs and opportunity, promote active lifestyles and reduce the impact on the environment.
“We are the capital of collaboration and have embraced mass transit,” Dyer says. “We know it’s our future.”