Construction crews will assemble a temporary bridge expected to ease traffic congestion at Diverging Diamond.
Have you noticed stacks of steel propped in the medians of I-75 near Exit 213 at University Parkway?
The heap of metal will play a critical role in the next phase of the Diverging Diamond Interchange project.
One of 25 shipments of panels arrived Nov. 2 and construction crews will soon start assembling the Acrow Multi-Span Panel Bridge. Within the next few weeks, the rest of the panels will arrive.
Once the panels of the bridge have been assembled, in one night, a bulldozer will push the panels together and fasten the bridge over University Parkway.
"The launch of the bridge is anticipated for mid-December," said Marlena Gore, the project manager with FDOT Interstate Construction. "We've started pile driving and making preparations for the temporary bridge. This is the most exciting part of the project so far."
Gore made the report to commissioners of both Manatee and Sarasota counties at a joint meeting on Oct. 29.
The bridge, which has been used nationwide as a temporary or permanent solution to ease traffic on highways and in other congested areas, will fit between southbound and northbound lanes at the overpass.
Drivers will use the structure while construction crews demolish the existing southbound bridge.
Spanning 280 feet, the bridge will also measure 42 feet wide to accommodate three lanes and shoulders, a purchase agreement cited.
The bridge will cost $1.87 million for supplies and other project needs, and it will be used in East County for two years.
"We have to have somewhere for traffic to go," said Trudy Gerena, spokesperson for the Diverging Diamond project. "Once the southbound bridge is demolished, we'll build a new one. Then, we'll demolish the northbound bridge, use Acrow to flow traffic there and then build a new northbound bridge. This bridge will help keep traffic moving while all that is happening."
Once the bridge is in place, asphalt will be laid to firm up the structure.
In various cases, Acrow bridges have been used as a long-term solution rather than just a temporary fix while permanent bridges are built, Acrow's website said. The bridges can be broken down and assembled in less than a month.
Gore said a two-lane Acrow Bridge has been used in Tampa, and it has been successful with curving the amount of traffic.
District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh loves the sight of a temporary bridge that can ease congestion. She has been a proponent of the project since before construction started nearly three months ago.
"This is very, very exciting,” Baugh said. "I’m anxious to see the temporary bridge and how that flows. When you look at diagrams of how it will direct the motion of traffic flow, you can see it will help make major roads less congested. I think the diamond is going to work out amazing."
Next steps include reconstruction of I-75 ramps leading and exiting the highway, from University Parkway to Fruitville Road, and widening of University.
Sarasota and Manatee counties' commissioners are still hopeful the Diverging Diamond will be completed earlier than its fall 2017 timeline.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected]