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East County Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2021 6 months ago

FDOT expects I-75/S.R. 70 project to be completed in November

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The $80.8 million project to improve the I-75/S.R. 70 interchange is running four to five months behind schedule.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Nearly three years after construction began at the interchange of Interstate 75 and State Road 70, Florida Department of Transportation Community Outreach Manager Brian Bollas said the end of the $80.8 million project is within sight.

Bollas said the project is scheduled for completion in November, weather permitting. In December, the Observer reported Spain-based construction company Sacyr was aiming for completion in the summer.

The delay is an accumulation of small factors, according to Bollas. Rain has been heavy in the past several weeks, slowing workers down and making some work impossible until water completely evaporates. A longer and cooler than usual dry season also played a factor. For example, road paving can only take place when the conditions reach a certain temperature, and some nights in the winter were too cold.

“If you're going to do something and you anticipate it takes a week, and it took you 10 days, it's almost like nickel and dime,” Bollas said. “A couple of days here, a couple of days there. That adds up rather quickly.”

When completed, the project will have widened to eight lanes a 6.75-mile stretch of I-75 from north of University Parkway to south of S.R. 64, reconstructed the S.R. 70/I-75 interchange by eliminating three of the four loop on-ramp configurations, widened I-75 entrance and exit ramps, replaced the bridge over S.R. 70, widened the bridge over the Braden River and resurfaced S.R. 70 between Tara Boulevard and 87th Street East. The project will also add sidewalks and 6½-foot buffered bike lanes along S.R. 70.

Bollas said one of the major aspects left to be completed is the ramp from eastbound S.R. 70 onto southbound I-75. The ramp closed June 26 and will likely remain closed until November. Construction crews will also work on finishing a nearby section of noise wall and a large retention pond.

In the meantime, vehicles on eastbound S.R. 70 will need to make a left-hand turn at the first signal after Tara Boulevard to access the temporary on-ramp for southbound I-75. FDOT said motorists should pay attention to signs and pavement markings and expect delays.

Bollas said the widening of southbound I-75 is nearly complete, with shoulder improvements the last remaining hurdle. The added fourth southbound lane, which is currently open in the short section from north of Exit 213 at University Parkway to south of the Braden River, will continue to open in segments.

It might take a bit longer to widen parts of northbound I-75 because construction crews are focused on improving the road’s shoulders in case it needs to be used for a hurricane evacuation route, according to Bollas.

Motorists should expect single-lane closures on I-75 ramps from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the week of July 12, according to a press release. The release also said motorists should expect single-lane closures on northbound I-75 from 8:45 p.m. to 6 a.m. and southbound I-75 from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through the duration of construction. There could also be double-lane closures on I-75 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through the duration of construction.

Bollas said the resurfacing of S.R. 70 has just begun.

Bollas said construction crews are conducting stormwater work and re-sodding work across various areas near the interchange. They have also begun working on medians in some areas, including utility-related constructions and new curbs. An FDOT press release said motorists should expect lane closures on S.R. 70 from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through the duration of construction.

Once most of the heavy-duty construction is finished, workers will put in a final layer of asphalt and top it off with road markings and striping.

Bollas said the FDOT knows East County residents are anxiously awaiting the completion of the project, adding the department is grateful for how patient and understanding the public has been while navigating construction and the resulting traffic congestion.

“As the community grows with more population and more jobs, obviously more traffic, we need these improvements to accommodate it,” Bollas said. “So the construction impacts are kind of like growing pains.”

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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