Florida’s Top Design-Build Projects Honored for Awards

Each year, the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) Florida Region Design-Build Awards program recognizes top design-build projects in Florida. Projects are honored for design and construction that meets or exceeds owner expectations.

Project award submissions are evaluated on scope of work, project challenges and goals, source selection and contracting approach, schedule and cost performance, design-build best practices, design and quality approach, and building information modeling and sustainability. The awards program is a great way to show owner appreciation and recognition.

The design-build team of Archer Western Contractors, LLC and GAI Consultants recently submitted a proposal for an Honor Award in Transportation for the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Parkway (SR 115)/21st Street Interchange project. The team will accept the award on November 6 at the 9th Annual Conference of the DBIA Florida Region awards luncheon at the Caribe Royale in Orlando. Projects receiving an award are also eligible to receive Best Overall Project Award—the Best Overall winner will be formally announced during the award ceremony and luncheon.

FDOT District Two’s MLK Parkway/21st Street Interchange project in Jacksonville began in November 2011 and was completed in May 2014. This $31M effort involved the design and construction of improvements to the Interchange to enhance corridor safety and improve access to Jacksonville Port Authority’s (JAXPORT) Talleyrand Marine Terminal. Enhancements included the realignment of SR 115 between Phoenix Avenue and East 15th Street, a new interchange between SR 115 and 21st Street, and improvements to the existing Phoenix Avenue Interchange.

To find out what makes the MLK project so unique, I sat down with Bob Baxter, PE, Senior Engineering Manager, who served as GAI’s Lead Design Engineer on the project.

Diane: Why was the MLK project identified as a need in the first place?

Bob: “JAXPORT wanted to enhance truck traffic in and out of the Port by removing heavy trucks from smaller side streets and providing them with direct access to the Talleyrand Marine Terminal. This project was identified to help move that goal along. Also, FDOT saw this as an opportunity to correct the Parkway’s tight 90-degree curve to make it better for the traveling public.”

Diane: What were the project’s challenges or unique factors?

Bob: “The MLK project incorporated a combination of the most unusual, complicated, and diverse features of any FDOT District Two project in the last 10 years. The biggest challenge was working in the historical residential Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville—it’s different than being out on a highway. We had to work the construction around the neighbors and keep them happy. Our team designed spread footer foundations, which greatly eliminated or lessened any type of vibrations to the homes during construction. So through our design, we were a good neighbor.”

Diane: How does the MLK project benefit the local area/neighborhood?

Bob: “This project enhanced the neighborhood park—Kooker Park—by turning an 80-yard football field into a regulation size 100-yard football field. A 90-space parking lot for the Park was also constructed. To allow safe access to the park, a new, lighted, multiuse pedestrian path was built on the north side of the project to direct walkers to the new signalized intersection/crosswalk that leads to the park’s entrance. The project also eliminated some truck traffic through part of a bad neighborhood intersection—by rerouting the trucks, safety was improved. Instead of going through Phoenix Avenue and several lights, the team designed a road that curves around and bypasses the whole area, which puts the trucks closer to the Port.

Diane: What is your general opinion on the design-build process?

Bob: “I’ve worked on a lot of traditional design-bid-build projects in my years of experience, and some of them have never been built. With design-build, you get involved at the very beginning, during the RFP stage, and see the project from its existing condition all the way to the grand opening. That’s the unique part of it and that’s what I like about it. I also like the challenge of winning the project, then designing it and getting it approved in the time we said we’d do it. It’s a challenge from day one to the last day of the project, and I like that.”

Diane: Would you share some suggestions on how you approach projects?

Bob: “With regard to design-build projects, keep an open mind once you receive an RFP—don’t let a conceptual plan sway your thinking. Start probing the Owner to see what’s fair game, what changes can or cannot be made, what can be optimized, and what can be done to make the team win the project. It’s all about optimal design for the cost. That’s what you have to do with design-build.”

At the 9th Annual Conference of the DBIA Florida Region awards luncheon, accepting the award on behalf of our project team will be Bob Baxter, as well as teammates Greg Nettuno, PE, Project Principal, Kevin Leadbetter, PE, Project Manager, and Bobby Jamieson, PE, PTOE, Project Design Engineer. To learn more about the MLK project, contact Bob Baxter at 904.363.1110. Visit the DBIA Florida Region’s website to see all 2014 Project Award Winners.

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