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Florida DOT Improves Okeechobee Road in Miami-Dade County

by: Debra Wood
Work takes place on the NW 116th Way bridge over the Miami Canal in Florida.
Work takes place on the NW 116th Way bridge over the Miami Canal in Florida.
Crews work on the NW 116th Way bridge over the Miami Canal.
Crews work on the NW 116th Way bridge over the Miami Canal.
Work takes place at the intersection of SR 25 and NW 116 Way/Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
Work takes place at the intersection of SR 25 and NW 116 Way/Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
Crews work on the foundation for the NW 116th Way bridge.
Crews work on the foundation for the NW 116th Way bridge.
An aerial view of work taking place at the intersection of SR 25 and Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
An aerial view of work taking place at the intersection of SR 25 and Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
An aerial view of construction on the intersection of SR 25 and Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
An aerial view of construction on the intersection of SR 25 and Hialeah Gardens Boulevard.
On heavily traveled SR 25, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has embarked on one of several projects to enhance travel a major arterial roadway in Miami.

“The purpose of this project is to improve the overall traffic operation and safety along these parts of a 10-mile corridor,” says George Hoffman, Project Manager for FDOT.

SR 25, also known as Okeechobee Road, serves as part of the state’s Strategic Intermodal System, as a primary hurricane evacuation route and as a major freight transportation corridor, with 15 percent of the traffic being heavy trucks. However, a number of operational deficiencies – including suboptimal turning radii and congestion at signalized intersections – existed prompting FDOT to upgrade the commercial route.

“This project is comprehensive in addressing all of that,” Hoffman says. “Without these improvements, the future conditions would be significantly worse than what we have now.”

Approximately 36,000 vehicles travel on this section of SR 25 per day. The peak hour traffic at SR 25 and Hialeah Gardens Boulevard (NW 116th Way) is about 1,200 vehicles.

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“The community has expressed the need for change, and they see the benefits the project will provide for traffic and safety,” says Maria Alzate, Senior Community Outreach Specialist with Infinite Source Communications Group in Miami, spokesperson for the project.

Part of a Larger Goal
This project, Segment 2, is one of the larger ones in the reconstruction of SR 25 from the Broward County line to the Palmetto Expressway.

The $42.5 million Segment 1 widens SR 25, realigns frontage roads and intersections, and creates a new median opening at NW 129th Avenue. The work began in February 2022 and is scheduled for completion in summer 2024. Halley Engineering Contractors of Medley, Florida, received that contract.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise manages two sections, reconstructing and widening SR 25 near the turnpike. This $370 million project takes place simultaneously with Segment 2. Some utility work also is under way at the same time.

“We are collaborating with the other projects, letting the other project teams know about closures,” Alzate says. The communication team also keeps the public informed about construction activity.

FDOT will manage Segments 3 and 4, starting in late 2024, and Segment 5 is set to begin in 2026.

Segment 2 Scope of Work
The current $105.6 million Segment 2 includes constructing an innovative two-level overpass, improving and widening frontage roads, replacing and widening two bridges, relocating a sewer force main and a sewer lift station, installing French drains, reconstructing SR 25, replacing a culvert, and lighting, signage and intelligent transportation system upgrades.

“There are a lot of unique aspects to this project,” says Enrique Tamayo, Senior Project Engineer with RK&K in Miami, construction consulting engineering and inspection. “This project has a little bit of everything you can imagine on a horizontal transportation project.”

CHA Consulting, in Doral, Florida, leads the design engineering team.

There are no major environmental concerns in Segment 2. Crews are watching for manatees and tortoises in the Miami Canal.

The two sewer aspects of the job are to make way for bridge replacements at NW 121st Way and NW 116th Way. The force main, which runs under SR 25 and the Miami Canal, is being moved as part of a joint participation agreement with Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department.

“Whenever we have a reconstruction or resurfacing project at FDOT, we coordinate with the local municipalities to verify if they have planned improvements,” Tamayo says. “If they do, we like to do it at the same time as our project.”

The two bridges carrying traffic to and from SR 25 and NW 121st Way and NW 116th Way will be flat slab bridges, with no beams. Crews will pour in place a thick slab of concrete. Twenty-four inch concrete piles will support the bridges. At NW 121st Way, crews will reuse some of the foundation piles supporting the existing structure and add piles for the widening, but at NW 116th Way, the entire foundation will be new.

The two-level, or echelon-style, intersection was needed to handle traffic due to three closely spaced intersections near Hialeah Gardens Boulevard and the traffic volumes traveling the area from Interstate 75 to Palmetto Expressway along SR 25. One direction of the busier SR 25 will be elevated, and the other direction will remain at ground level. Ramps provide access from one level to the next. This style intersection increases safety and significantly improves capacity in the area.

“It’s to separate Okeechobee Road from the local lanes at the highly traveled intersection,” Hoffman says. “This is the most prominent improvement on this project.”

The foundation for the four new bridges needed to support this two-level intersection will be 24-inch concrete piles. There is one elevated bridge at Hialeah Gardens Boulevard, which will have steel beams and three bridges along SR 25, with prestressed concrete Florida-I beams.

Work has not yet begun on the two-level intersection. It will take place in Phase 2.

Encouraging Innovation
Prince Contracting of Tampa, Florida, received the Segment 2 contract. Prince, founded in 1983 and now part of Dragados USA, operates in Florida and Georgia. The company focuses on transportation and infrastructure development.

The project includes cost saving initiatives (CSI), which encourage design modifications and innovations suggested by the contractor. Prince has proposed five CSIs, which are under review and consideration by FDOT. If approved, the department shares the savings with the contractor.

“We encourage our contractors to be innovative, find better, more efficient, and economical ways to give us the same quality project we expect from the original contract,” Tamayo says. The department also will consider alternative traffic control plans and sequencing.

Work began in May 2022 on Segment 2’s first phase, improving the frontage road and side streets. When complete, the frontage road will feature a dedicated bicycle lane and will be widened at two intersections to introduce turn lanes. The frontage road and side streets also will be paved with asphalt.

The project includes replacing a large 96-inch drainage culvert between the NW 97th Avenue Canal, northeast of the SR 25 and the Hialeah Gardens Boulevard intersection and the Miami Canal. Crews are installing a new 102-inch culvert. That work requires detouring traffic and lane closures.

But most of the time, the contractor is limiting lane closures to nights or weekends, due to the heavy congestion during workweek, daytime hours. The corridor features a wide right-of-way in which the crews are working.

“We’re progressing and advancing the project where we are not impacting traffic during the weekday,” Hoffman says.

“Prince is using technology, including GIS and GPS on its equipment for survey and layout, which allows for more accurate work to be performed,” Tamayo says. RK&K uses drones for aerial documentation and for progress updates and meetings.

In Phase 3, crews will reconstruct SR 25, replacing the sub-base and paving with 120,000 square yards of concrete for a 9.5-inch-thick pavement, then restriping SR 25. The road is currently paved with asphalt, but the department determined the concrete would be more durable and withstand the truck traffic better.

“This is a challenging project, both technically and administratively, with all the coordination with other projects taking place at the same time,” Tamayo says.

Segment 2 remains on schedule with completion anticipated in early 2026. The contract includes up to a $4.7 million incentive to finish the project by as much as 100 days early. “We are all working together toward the maximum incentive date,” Tamayo concludes.

Photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Transportation

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