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I-4 Ultimate Project Progress is Significant

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More than a year into the job, the I-4 Ultimate project is humming right along toward its scheduled completion in 2021.

By literally working night and day, the team keeps reaching new milestones. These have included placing girders over Interstate 4 (I-4) for the first new interchange bridge (northbound Kirkman Road/State Road 435), first concrete pour for a new bridge (westbound I-4 bridge over New Hampshire Street) and the first major traffic shift (westbound I-4 near Colonial Drive/State Road 50).

“Despite a few weeks of stormy weather, construction is progressing on schedule,” said Loreen Bobo, P.E., I-4 Ultimate Construction Program Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). “Dividing the 21-mile project into four separate construction areas has proven to be beneficial to maintaining the accelerated timeline.”

While FDOT oversees the work closely, each of the four designated areas has its own construction office, construction program and work crews. The following is a brief overview of the progress made in the four construction areas of the I-4 Ultimate project, known as Attractions, Downtown, Ivanhoe and Altamonte.

AREA 1 — ATTRACTIONS (Kirkman Road to John Young Parkway)

Construction on the Kirkman Road interchange is ongoing. Kirkman Road bridges over westbound I-4 are nearing completion. In addition, bridge construction has begun on the overpass connecting Grand National Drive and Caravan Court, which is slated to be open to traffic in 2017. A new westbound I-4 exit ramp to northbound Kirkman Road was opened in August. While the traffic configuration to the new ramp is temporary, the new ramp is in the footprint of the permanent I-4 exit ramp.

AREA 2 — DOWNTOWN (Orange Blossom Trail to Colonial Drive)

As the busiest part of the roadway with the most complicated tasks, the Downtown construction area includes nearly half of the 140 bridges that must be built or reconstructed for the entire project. New temporary bridges are currently being constructed between westbound and eastbound I-4 from South Street to Pine Street. The first girders are scheduled to be placed in the coming month with the new bridges possibly opening before the New Year.

The path to project completion for Area 2 lies in the way of the interchange of I-4 and State Road (S.R.) 408. Deemed to be the entire project’s most critical path, this area also requires the longest sequence of activities. Work is ongoing to widen S.R. 408 for new ramp connections and to remove the old westbound S.R. 408 on-ramp from Lucerne Circle. Further to the north, work is continuing on the Colonial Drive interchange and the surrounding area. A portion of Garland Avenue, north of Colonial Drive, is currently closed to relocate utilities, install drainage and dry ponds, realign Garland Avenue, and reconstruct the Colonial Drive interchange including a new eastbound I-4 entrance ramp.

AREA 3 — IVANHOE (Ivanhoe Boulevard to Kennedy Boulevard)

The Ivanhoe construction team is building the project’s most iconic bridge stretching over Lake Ivanhoe, the gateway to downtown Orlando. Construction is progressing in the Ivanhoe area with bridge work occurring at nearly each/every interchange, including Princeton Street, Par Street, Fairbanks Avenue (S.R. 426) and Lee Road (S.R. 423). New temporary exit ramps from eastbound I-4 recently opened at several of these interchanges, including Princeton Street, Fairbanks Avenue and Lee Road.

AREA 4 — ALTAMONTE (Maitland Boulevard to S.R. 434)

The Maitland Boulevard (S.R. 414) interchange completion is expected in 2018. After accomplishing the project’s first major traffic shift on westbound Maitland Boulevard in August 2015, the area team accomplished another major traffic shift on eastbound Maitland Boulevard in July 2016. In addition to the traffic shift, a new westbound I-4 on-ramp from eastbound Maitland Boulevard opened at the same time. Work is also underway on the Wymore Road and Central Parkway overpasses creating room to widen I-4 in Seminole County.

I-4 Ultimate project holds benefits for pedestrians and bicyclists

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Motorists aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of the 21-mile facelift of Central Florida’s busiest roadway. The I-4 Ultimate infrastructure project aims to create a safer and more functional experience for pedestrians and bicyclists on many of the roads that cross or are near Interstate 4 (I-4) while highlighting aesthetic appeal.

Future features include:

  • Adding and reconstructing 15 miles of sidewalk
  • Adding and reconstructing 7 miles of bike lanes
  • Enhancing pedestrian crossings at 12 key locations
  • Widening sidewalks – adding anywhere from 1-10 extra feet
  • Adding decorative lighting and pavement in various locations
  • Adding an urban, multi-use park underneath I-4 in downtown Orlando
  • The City of Orlando is adding a pedestrian bridge over Colonial Drive in downtown Orlando

Some of the most impressive additions include a tunnel under State Road 436 and pedestrian bridges above Kirkman Road (State Road 435) and above I-4 near Maitland Boulevard (State Road 414).

A pedestrian tunnel will be constructed under State Road 436 between Douglas Avenue/Wymore Road and the westbound ramps to and from I-4.

This is a response to creating a median across SR 436 which removes the signal. This will improve traffic flow and increase safety.

The tunnel will be 12-feet wide, 10-feet tall and will be fully lit at all times. Altamonte Springs Police Department also will have access to security cameras in the tunnel.

The pedestrian bridge at Kirkman Road will provide safe transport to various hotels and attractions at the intersection of Kirkman Road and Major Boulevard.

The bridge near the Maitland Boulevard interchange will cross I-4 and connect the pathways at Lake Destiny Road and Wymore Road. The bridge will be 12-feet wide and will accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

The design is unique in that it the bridge will be curved and supported by 20 pairs of steel cables attached to an arch that is 142-feet high at the center. There also will be two 25-feet wide overlooks on each end of the suspended bridge.

In the meantime, spotters are identifying specific bicyclist and pedestrian hazards, and the project team is addressing them. The team is building and maintaining protective shield systems and using barriers to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

Smoothing the Way

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Building new bridges or revamping old ones for the I-4 Ultimate project often requires huge machines that can stretch across more than 100 feet of freshly poured concrete and smooth out the uneven surface with a slow, steady motion.

In some ways, they are like giant, automated trowels or squeegees, taking 100-foot-long strokes with pinpoint precision and turning thick, heavy concrete into smooth roadway surface.

The work often requires lane closures to keep motorists safe, so the I-4 Ultimate team usually performs the tasks at night when traffic is lighter. As a result, most commuters and residents rarely see the big machines in motion.

Called bridge deck finishers or deck screeds, they can weigh more than 10,000 pounds and may take two days to assemble and test on the bridges. The apparatus includes augers and drum rollers attached to an overhead truss, which moves ahead slowly to flatten out the 8-inch-deep, wet concrete.

Throughout the 21-mile reconstruction project, the I-4 Ultimate team will use this process to revamp, reconstruct or build anew more than 140 bridges, said Chris Dubois, Area 3 Project Manager for SGL – the design-build joint venture of Skanska Granite and Lane for the I-4 Ultimate project.

In addition to safety, working at night offers other benefits. “We usually don’t have to worry about rain late in the evening,” said Kevin Moynihan, Area 3 Construction manager for SGL. “And the cooler evening temperatures help the concrete cure evenly.”

While parts of the process are highly automated and mechanized, the team still relies on old-fashioned methods to ensure the concrete cures evenly during a seven-day period. They seal the smoothed surface, spread burlap on top and periodically wet it down until the curing process is complete.

FDOT Discourages Drowsy Driving

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Fall asleep in your bed, not on the road. That’s the message the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) wants to resonate with motorists during Florida’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

Nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans drive a car every day, according to a recently released report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a national highway safety organization. On average, about 328,000 crashes involve drowsy driving.

Those at greatest risk are truck or bus drivers, motorists under the age of 25 (specifically men) and night shift workers, the report showed. Anywhere between 10-20 percent of large truck or bus crashes on U.S. roadways involve a tired driver, the report found. The data was supplied by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

When it comes to keeping drowsiness at bay, nothing compares to a full night’s sleep, said Mark Jenkins, AAA Auto Club South spokesman.

“The best thing you can do is to get a good night’s sleep,” he said. “If you’re going to be behind the wheel and feel yourself starting to get tired, maybe take a break every two to three hours. Stretch your legs out or have a caffeinated beverage.”

FDOT recommends the following:

  • Do not consume alcohol and avoid medications that cause drowsiness.
  • Get a good night's sleep (7-8 hours) before driving. Good overall sleep habits will go a long way to prevent drowsy driving.
  • Take a companion on long trips. Not only will you have someone to share the driving and help keep you awake, but you'll be able to save energy by carpooling too.
  • Schedule regular breaks, about every 100 miles or every couple of hours.
  • Check out Florida's network of rest areas, service plazas, truck comfort stations and welcome centers.

Fatigue will negatively affect the way you drive, said Steven Montiero, Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

“Your reaction times are down,” he said. “You need to make sure you’re fully rested when you’re operating a vehicle.”

Montiero urges drivers to stay alert, and take their safety and the safety of others seriously.

“It’s not only your life at stake,” he said. “But everyone else’s.”

Employee Spotlight: Yesenia Vazquez

Human Resources Administrator
Resident of Altamonte Springs

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Growing up in a family where her father and other relatives worked in the construction business, Yesenia Vazquez sometimes tuned out all the shoptalk at family gatherings when she was younger. However, today, when she and father get together, she finds they have many stories and professional ideas to share.

Vazquez is a Human Resources Administrator, who helps recruit and hire skilled or “craft” workers for the I-4 Ultimate project. Her father, meanwhile, is staying busy in the road construction business in another part of the state on a completely unrelated project. But they marvel at all the experiences they have in common.

“It’s funny,” Vazquez said, “I’ve grown closer to my father through the business.” However, that’s just part of the reason she loves her work at the Recruitment and Training Center in Orlando, which is managed by SGL – the design-build joint venture of Skanska Granite and Lane for the I-4 Ultimate Project.

“I like people. I enjoy meeting them and advising them on how they can meet their goals and aspirations,” said Vazquez, who grew up in Ocala. And, indeed, the more she learns about people and the work they do, the more she can help them advance.

That makes for enjoyable workdays. “I never know who is going to come through the door,” Vazquez said. It might be a person with many years of experience and a resume; it might be someone who just wants a chance to learn a skill. Often there is a need for both.

Vazquez, who has an undergraduate degree from Florida State University and a master’s from the University of Scranton, said she loves finding ways for people to grow professionally.

If she could give job seekers a little advice, it would be that she really wants to hear what they have to say. The questions they ask help her know how to help them. “Bring a resume, if you have one, and be prepared to ask questions.”

Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability or family status. Persons who require special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact Jennifer Smith, FDOT Title VI Coordinator by phone at (386) 943-5367, or via email at If you are hearing or speech impaired, please contact us by using the Florida Relay Service, 1-800-955-8771 (TDD) or 1-800-955-8770 (Voice).