The Florida Department of Transportation District One was recently awarded “Outstanding Roadway Project” by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida. The $20 million project recognized by the group is the State Road 542 corridor from First Street to Buckeye Loop Road in Winter Haven – a major artery through the city.
The heavily traveled 2.4-mile road was widened and realigned and the project included adding pedestrian and bicycle features to help improve safety and enhance mobility. It was completed in December 2020.
“We’re excited and honored that our team was recognized by their peers for their hard work and dedication in bringing such an important improvement to our community,” says Jay Wolfe, FDOT Construction Project Manager.
The project included adding a continuous left turn lane through the business district and residential area with multiple schools before widening to a short four-lane section. Innovative approaches were also used to meet water quality and floodplain requirements.
The project design consultant was Burgess & Niple, Inc., consulting engineering and inspection was Eisman & Russo, Inc. and the prime contractor was Watson Civil Construction.
“There was great teamwork to complete this major improvement for traffic flow and safety and enhancement for the city delivered on-time and under budget,” says Dan Foss, Senior Project Engineer with Eisman & Russo, Inc.
The project came with its set of challenges: a limited right of way, major utility relocation, pedestrian and bike lanes, adjacent wetlands along the south side of Lake Elbert’s shoreline and it included business, residential and historic districts. The complexity of the project is why SR 542 was chosen for the award, says ACEC committee member Nick Benedico, with Tetra Tech in Orlando.
“Not only did it consist of roadway work, but also addressed bicyclists, pedestrians and involved utility relocation,” he says. There were three other projects up for the award, but the number of components involved is what set this one apart.The project included $3.1 million in city utility work and bike lanes and sidewalks were added on both sides of the corridor and aligned with the city’s vision to provide safe places for alternative transportation and recreation.
Winter Haven’s Public Works Director MJ Carnevale says a safe pedestrian corridor was desperately needed and the traffic flow was improved. “These types of projects help improve the community and the city can continue to grow and develop,” he says. And he’s happy to see FDOT being recognized for their work.
“FDOT was exceptional. I think under LK Nandam’s (District One Secretary) philosophy of FDOT being more partnership-based, his leadership is shining through and things were followed up on.”
Wolfe, with FDOT, says, “Cooperation and teamwork among project partners including the FDOT, the city, prime contractor, and utility companies occupying the corridor was key in making this an award-winning project.”
A second phase of construction is currently underway to carry the improvements from Buckeye Loop Road to east of US 27. They will widen SR 542 from two to four lanes with more bike lanes, sidewalks and street lighting. A new traffic signal will be at Overlook Drive and there will be major utility improvements for Winter Haven and Dundee.