Wekiva Parkway Opening Spotlights GAI Design-Build and CEI

News reporting out of Central Florida celebrated the official completion of the Wekiva Parkway on January 26, 2024. GAI Consultants played a significant role in making the long-anticipated roadway a reality—completing a beltway around the Orlando metro area that offers residents, commuters, businesses, and visitors faster, safer, and easier travel in this busy region.

Wekiva Parkway Ribbon-Cutting

Stakeholders gather to mark the opening of this long-awaited roadway.

“The opening of the Wekiva Parkway marks the successful culmination of an initiative that has been active for close to 30 years,” said GAI VP Steve Boylan, PE, who helms the firm’s Florida Transportation Business Sector and served as project manager of a design-build project for the beltway’s Segment 6. “The goal of our work on Segment 6 was to complete the western portion of the beltway around Orlando, providing a parkway-type facility that reflects the natural environment and provides improved connectivity for wildlife.”

Accommodating Nature, Coordinating Stakeholders, Securing Substantial Wins

The design and construction of Segment 6 required substantial consideration for the project area’s natural environment and for satisfying associated regulatory requirements. “Segment 6 runs through some very pristine areas as well as crosses the wild and scenic Wekiva River; the design required a lot of wildlife connectivity and the like to help make the project sustainable—GAI incorporated several wildlife crossings of considerable size, the largest crossing being over a half-mile long,” said Boylan.

A standout project component is the section of roadway built over the Wekiva River itself. “The Wekiva River crossing is a high-level, segmental, concrete structure that was designed to reflect and blend into the surroundings,” said Boylan. “The design incorporates such unique elements as piers sculpted to resemble the trunks of trees that help the structure better reflect the overall environment of the corridor.”

Wekiva Segment 6 Wekiva Segment 6 Wekiva Segment 6 Wekiva Segment 6

Roadway construction through the environmentally sensitive area required deft coordination with a range of entities. “Our work involved a tremendous amount of stakeholder engagement with governmental agencies like the U.S National Park Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Park Service, and also with local environmental stakeholders including a group called Friends of the Wekiva River,” said Boylan. “The Wekiva River is designated as a wild and scenic river under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which required us to satisfy several special criteria. Through GAI’s sustained engagement with stakeholders including the U.S. National Park Service, we were able to achieve consensus that we had satisfied a portion of the Act called a Section 7A determination—in fact, ours was the first project ever to achieve a Section 7A determination without an act of Congress,” said Boylan. “This successful outcome is largely attributable to the partnerships that GAI developed among the involved governmental agencies, environmental groups, and the local community.”

GAI AVP Andre Sutherland, PE, Florida CEI Services Business Sector Leader, who served as project manager for the company’s construction and engineering inspection (CEI) work in Segment 1B of the beltway, also credits adaptability and solid relationship-building skills in helping bring his portion of the project to a successful outcome. “In my mind, the GAI CEI team was instrumental to the project’s success not only by executing our inspections in a thorough and timely manner, but also in negotiating the changes that cropped up over the course of work and working with the contractor in overcoming supply and worksite challenges,” said Sutherland. “Working in this way enabled GAI to deliver the job on schedule despite momentary challenges, which the client was very happy about.”

A Major Success for Central Florida and GAI

“The Wekiva Parkway is a very important regional project, the positive effects of which are already being felt even though it’s been open only a short while—it is also a standout project for GAI in which we really got to demonstrate a lot of the things that the company can accomplish,” said Boylan. “As well as representing a major initiative in which GAI built the concepts, acquired the permits, and laid out the framework for the project, Segment 6 of the beltway was also a design-build project in which we got to work hand-in-hand with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in the stages of procurement and review. It was a great experience for the GAI team, effectively working side-by-side with so many engaged stakeholders and helping to make the outcome a success.”

Contact Steve Boylan, PE, 321.319.3071, for more information about GAI’s transportation engineering services or Andre Sutherland, PE, 904.559.8081, for more information about GAI’s CEI services —message GAI and start the conversation about how our multidiscipline professionals can meet your unique project needs.

Steve BoylanStephen Boylan, PE has over three decades of experience in design and project management, specializing in the design of major limited access and arterial roadway reconstruction, roadway rehabilitation, and elements of traffic design.

Andre SutherlandAndre Sutherland, PE has extensive construction and management experience in construction engineering, and inspection (CEI); he has participated in a broad range of field operations and situations, working on several major expressway and urban development projects in a range of capacities.

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