So far so good for ambitious improvements to a 10.5-mile stretch of Interstate 595 in Florida's Broward County. Approaching the midpoint of its construction schedule, the $1.8-billion contract—the Florida Dept. of Transportation's first use of a design-build-finance-operate-maintain contract and its highest-dollar project ever—is on schedule and on budget for a June 2014 completion.

“Everything on this job is unique,” says Paul Lampley, FDOT's project manager for the I-595 Express Corridor Improvements Project.

FDOT opted to use a public-private partnership to bundle what had been more than 15 projects into a single job supported by private financing. The state had about $685 million available, but that did not include funds for the express toll lanes.

Now, FDOT will use its available funds for final acceptance payments, including incentive milestone payments, to concessionaire I-595 Express, after construction is complete. (I-595 Express is the venture formed by bidder ACS Infrastructure Development, the Coral Gables, Fla.-based U.S. subsidiary of Group ACS, Spain.)

Thanks to the novel public-private partnership, “we were able to advance construction by at least 10 years,” says Joe Borello, senior technical adviser with HDR Inc., Omaha, Neb., which is serving as a design consultant.

Design and construction costs for the project total $1.2 billion. More than $285 million in construction has been completed to date.

The bulk of the project is the addition of nine miles of three reversible toll lanes at grade and auxiliary lanes. A 2.5-mile stretch of the Florida Turnpike's main line, where it intersects with the corridor, will be widened and reconstructed. There will be improvements to the I-595/Turnpike interchange and construction of a two-mile-long portion of frontage road S.R. 84. In addition, the contract calls for a seven-mile greenway for bikes and pedestrians and 13 ground-mounted and shoulder-mounted sound barriers for 20 communities.

Over the life of the 30-year contract, the state will pay the concessionaire a maximum of roughly $1.3 billion in availability payments, which are monthly fees awarded if the facility meets state performance requirements. The project marks the first use of availability payments in the U.S., according to Lampley.

I-595 Express will maintain and operate the facility, but the state will own it and collect tolls. After 30 years, the state will resume responsibility for maintenance.

“[Since] the concessionaire is maintaining the corridor for a long period of time, it builds quality into the project,” Lampley says. “They are looking for lower maintenance costs.”

Early Innovation

An innovative option to purchasing rights-of-way saved a significant sum early on. To control stormwater, FDOT purchased drainage rights on two golf courses and bought a third course—which was later sold—that the department redesigned and redeveloped. Now, I-595 redirects the majority of rainwater to the golf courses' lakes through 72-in. microtunnels running under the road. The shared-use solution saved more than $60 million in right-of-way purchases for drainage facilities, according to Reynolds, Smith & Hills. The firm conducted planning and environmental studies and produced preliminary drawings.