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East County Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 8 months ago

Interstate 75 and State Road 70 construction on schedule in Manatee County

Project is step in FDOT’s $80.8 million plan to widen 6.75 miles of I-75.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Marlena Gore, the Florida Department of Transportation interstate construction manager, and FDOT Public Information Officer Brian Bollas stood just off Interstate 75 on a concrete slab wearing hard hats and reflective vests and peered down at traffic

flowing along State Road 70.

Besides construction workers, they were among the first to inspect the new concrete overpass for northbound I-75 at S.R. 70. Workers finished pouring concrete for the bridge Oct. 2, which triggered a seven-day curing period.

“It’s a new milestone,” Gore said. “Where we’re standing will be the new I-75.”

FDOT hopes to open the new northbound I-75 overpass in late October or early November.

“All of northbound will move to that permanent configuration,” Gore said. “Then southbound will move to the old northbound overpass. Once that traffic shift takes place, they will demolish the old southbound overpass and construct a new southbound overpass.”

The project is part of FDOT’s overall $80.8 million plan to widen 6.75 miles of I-75 from north of University Parkway to south of S.R. 64, reconstruct the S.R. 70/I-75 interchange and eliminate a loop on-ramp configuration and resurface S.R. 70 between Tara Boulevard and 87th Street East.

Overall, the project is on schedule.

Gore said heavy rains in July and August caused weather-related delays for contractor Sacyr Construccion, based in Spain, but Sacyr remains within its contractual timelines.

“We’ve been promising spring of 2021 [for completion],” Gore said. “We’re hoping for earlier. It’s dry now, so they are making some additional headway.”

The next major milestone will be the closure of the southbound I-75 loop from westbound S.R. 70. FDOT hopes that can occur by Thanksgiving, or at least by early December, weather permitting.

At that time, traffic will shift, so westbound S.R. 70 to southbound I-75 traffic will make a left-hand turn onto the on-ramp, as motorists did during the S.R. 64/I-75 project.

Gore said FDOT has taken some “lessons learned” from that project and will construct a dual left turn lane instead of a single left turn lane in hopes of alleviating potential traffic backups during construction.

FDOT is also permanently modifying its design for eastbound S.R. 70 to northbound I-75. Currently, there is a traffic signal under the overpass and another farther east just before the on-ramp. Motorists are supposed to stop at one or the other, but drivers instead are bypassing the under-the-overpass signal to get farther ahead in line.

Gore said it is posing a safety problem, and FDOT will now have only the one signal under the overpass.

“What’s planned out there is not working,” Gore said.

Bollas said FDOT has requested traffic accident reports from the Florida Highway Patrol to better understand what is causing accidents there and use that information to further tweak designs, if needed. Much of the problem is driving behaviors, such as speeding, distracted driving, running red lights and blocking the intersection.

“The interchange improvement is to improve efficiency and safety,” Bollas said. “However, whether there’s construction or not, you’re witnessing poor driver behavior.”

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