Sped-up I-275 construction slowing drivers

"Usually, if there's a lane closure, we have a permit, we know about it...but we did not know about it."

Vik Bihde with the Tampa Transportation Division explains an alert he just received from a technician. There's an accident on I-275.

"So, everyone's taking Kennedy instead," he says.

Vik adjusts some green times and clears the back-up. But things get more complicated during extensive highway construction.

"When Dale Mabry, that exit closed, we saw an uptick in traffic on Kennedy and Himes and Cypress," he tells me.

That led to weeks of evaluation to adjust lights. Adding to the normal challenges, I-275 from state road 60 to the Hillsborough River is a "Design-Build" project. That means this contractor - a collaboration between Skanska and Ajax - is responsible for the highway's redesign as well as the building.

The alternative is "Design-Bid-build," where the design is created then bid out to a contractor for construction.

FDOT's John McShaffrey says "Design-build" speeds up the construction process a lot, but it leads to problems with planning ahead.

Actually, the Federal Highway Administration suggests* that design-build projects are most effective when no more than 30 percent of the design is done prior to the start of construction. So, the plans that the City of Tampa approved before this project began couldn't possibly have prepared them for the impact coming to their streets.

That impact has been more intense lately, with the ever-shifting closure date of the Lois Avenue exit... but it will get even crazier when the northbound Dale Mabry exit closes simultaneously next week for at least one workday.

Commuters beware: it might be a good idea to just take the day off.

So "design-build" ends up meaning more contractor flexibility and less lead time on changes. But for the guys timing the signals and drivers trying to get to work, time makes all the difference.

*The Florida Highway Administration did a study to weigh the benefits of the "Design Build" process and issued this report in 2006.

"Design-Bid-Build" requires a design to be 100 percent complete prior to executing the bidding process which allows contractors to issue their cost to perform construction. The lowest bid is usually the one accepted. In many of the Florida Department of Transportation's "design bid build" projects, internal designers perform the design process, but sometimes an outside contractor creates the design prior to construction bidding.


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