SGL Making Great Strides With Massive $2.32B I-4 Ultimate
More than a year into the $2.32 billion I-4 Ultimate project, work is taking place along the entire 21-mile Interstate 4 corridor in the Orlando metropolitan area of central Florida.
“We’re increasing the capacity and designing it to today’s standards,” says Loreen Bobo, I-4 Ultimate Construction Program Manager with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
FDOT recognized the need to increase capacity on I-4 two decades ago. Built in the 1950s and early 1960s, before Walt Disney World opened and millions of visitors and new residents descended on the area, I-4 has become increasingly congested.
The department made interim improvements, secured right-of-way, proceeded with partial designs and planned to let traditional bid-built segments of the project for construction. However, reconstruction would have taken 27 years, using traditional funding mechanisms. In 2008, FDOT began successfully using public-private partnerships (P3) in South Florida.
“Public-private partnerships are a mechanism to move forward a project you do not have all of the money for but needs to happen,” Bobo says. “We were able to shave off 20 years.”
Eight firms expressed interest in bidding, four teams were short listed, and in 2014, FDOT selected I-4 Mobility Partners (I4MP), a 50/50 joint venture (JV) between Skanska Infrastructure Development based in Alexandria, Virginia, and John Laing, an investor and operator of infrastructure based in the United Kingdom.
This is the first project for the JV in the United States. However, this is Skanska’s third P3 in the U.S. and the second for John Laing.
I4MP brought together a team with experience building roads in Florida. SGL Constructors, a fully integrated joint venture among Skanska USA Civil Southeast, Granite Construction Co. and The Lane Construction Corp., established a project office in Maitland, Florida. With their combined experience, the team knows how to manage a project of this size and complexity.
“It is all about having the right partners,” says Wim De Smet, Chief Executive Officer with I4MP.
FDOT will set, collect and keep the dynamic-rate tolls, which could change based on traffic flow on the express lanes.
The deal calls for the department to pay I4MP annual $75 million availability payments, based on performance measures, once construction is completed. FDOT has already specified what the asset must look like and perform like at the end of the 40-year contract, when the road is handed back to the department.
Construction Moves Forward
SGL began construction work in February 2015, primarily focused on foundations and drainage. Scope includes adding the four express lanes, two in each direction.
I-4 is a megaproject and something special that every member of the team will be very proud to be part of for years to come,” says Tom Boyle, a Project Executive with SGL. “This is a signature corridor project.”
The I4MP team divided the project into four areas, with work taking place in each simultaneously: the 5.7-mile attractions area, near the theme parks at Universal Orlando; the 4.2-mile downtown area; the 4.9-mile Ivanhoe area, north of the central business district; and the 6.4-mile Altamonte area, from the suburban community of Maitland to Longwood.
“The only way to pull off a schedule of a little over six years is to work all of the areas simultaneously,” says Michael Gwynne, with HNTB, the construction oversight services consultant for FDOT.
Each area has its own project management team, with combinations of Skanska, Granite and Lane managers, engineers, surveyors, superintendents and office support. Currently, 630 craft employees are working on the project with a peak of nearly 1,000 anticipated.
SGL plans to complete some areas earlier than the more complex segments, such as the I-4/SR 408 five-level interchange, which will provide direct-connect movements to the four express lanes. One by one, the bridges and new ramps will take shape.
“This team has come together, and we have accomplished so much,” Boyle adds. “There are so many moving parts and so much that has to happen for the work to move forward.”
SGL is using building information modeling (BIM) in select areas, including construction of the five-level I-4/SR 408 interchange.
“BIM modeling is being used to help with the planning and execution necessary to build this job,” Boyle says.
SGL has embraced technology. The team uses PlanGrid to keep all drawings current and at the fingertips of the supervisor on tablets.
Bobo considers maintenance of traffic on I-4 and on the streets and highways that run above and below as one of the greatest challenges. In any given week, there may be 40 to 50 closures.
The four express lanes will have rigid concrete pavement, with the general traffic lanes and shoulders asphalt. FDOT had required the team use a minimum of 550,000 square yards of rigid pavement. I4MP and SGL chose to pave the express lanes with concrete based on life cycle analysis.
“Typically you can get more years out of concrete than asphalt,” Bobo explains. “It’s more durable. We want to close those lanes as little as possible.”
CEMEX of Orlando plans to supply more than 4,900 truckloads of reinforced concrete pipe and more than 375,000 of the 620,000 cubic yards of structural concrete required for the project.
“During the next year, you are going to see a tremendous amount of concrete substructure work, the columns and caps, followed by bridge superstructure,” Boyle says. “The landscape is going to change dramatically.”
The team also is recycling old concrete and turning it into the base rock for the new roadways. The old bridge steel also is being recycled. SGL is tracking fuel usage.
“The construction phase is the most important,” De Smet says. “You lay the basis for future maintenance and life cycle. The risk is for 40 years.”
HNTB administers the job and contract on behalf of FDOT, focusing on the concessionaire’s quality assurance and quality control teams to ensure everyone complies with the concession agreement and meets the quality metrics set for the job.
“We spend a lot of our time monitoring compliance of the concessionaire’s team to the construction quality control/quality assurance plan, which has been designed to meet the quality expectations for the project,” Gwynne says.
HNTB developed a risk-based auditing plan and a requirements verification database. The company uses this system to upload SGL’s schedule, randomly pick activities to take a closer look at and then make sure the I4MP team is complying with the contract requirements.
“The reason we use such a system is to maximize efficiency and ensure we are as objective as possible,” Gwynne says. “We use the system to select work products, operations or processes, so that our findings are representative of the concessionaire’s performance as a whole.”
HNTB also ensures all federal requirements are met, since FDOT and I4MP have received some federal dollars. It looks at representative samples of the work every month.
SGL also is performing quality control for the construction work, following its own program to ensure compliance with the contract and specifications.
“Everybody is involved in quality control,” Boyle says.
Meanwhile, HNTB keeps a steady eye on the progress, providing an extra layer of assurance that everything in the contract is met as work continues throughout the main interstate running through the community.
“This project is changing the landscape of central Florida,” Bobo concludes. “We look forward to getting it done, and we have five more years to go.”