Fort Hamer Bridge Project with Road Improvements
Bradenton, Fla.
Best Project

Owner: Manatee County Public Works Dept.
Lead Design Firm: AECOM Technical Services Inc.
General Contractor: Johnson Bros., Southland Contracting
Civil Engineer: The Heimburg Group Inc.
Structural Engineer: AECOM Technical Services Inc.
Paving Contractor: Gator Grading & Paving
Signalization/Signage Subcontractor: MSB Services LLC

Collaboration, always an essential ingredient in construction, was rarely more essential than for this multifaceted $33.3-million infrastructure project. Originally designed as three separate projects with three different engineers of record, the owner decided to combine them into a single contract. It was up to the CEI, contractor, engineer and owner to make this relationship work, instilling mutual trust to work through any issues, many of which arose in the field.

The centerpiece of this 5.4-mile project is the Fort Hamer Bridge, a roughly 2,300-ft-long structure comprised of 18 spans ranging from 100 ft to 144 ft. The project also delivered a new roadway connecting the existing Upper Manatee River Road to the existing Fort Hamer Road as well as additional bike lanes, widened shoulders, relocated roadside ditches and new sidewalks.

Although permits called for the bridge to be built from a full-length, temporary work trestle, the project team determined that this approach would impact a large area of wetlands for two years. An innovative revised plan of multi-phased crane picks and custom layouts substantially reduced the amount of trestle needed. Relocating the temporary work structure as bridge construction progressed made for a smaller construction footprint that minimized wetland impacts. In addition, the strategy reduced overall project costs by several million dollars and facilitated the timely completion of all construction milestones.

A host of unexpected challenges also kept the project team on its collective toes. When it was discovered that the new roadway alignment would drastically compromise access to an adjacent elementary school, for example, the project team scrambled to develop and construct a new turn lane to create a safer, more efficient entrance/exit route. Construction drawings and pricing were finalized within days, and the turn lane was installed during the school’s holiday break to avoid traffic disruptions.

Recognizing the bridge’s importance to the community, the owner planned several celebratory events for its completion, including a 10K charity run. Although hurricane-related work interruptions had disrupted the project schedule, the team devised a strategy that allowed runners to safely cross the uncompleted bridge. When yet another hurricane threatened the area, the project team scrambled to temporarily open the structure, providing a valuable route for evacuations and emergency response efforts.