Construction work on two long-awaited and important transportation infrastructure projects are slated to get underway in Jacksonville, Fla., this year.
Funding has been approved for a $596-million bridge over the St. Johns River that will connect Clay and St. Johns counties. A $5.5-million rail spur will also be built to the Cecil Commerce Centre (CCC)
The new bridge will be just south of the two-lane Shands Bridge which will be demolished when the new crossing is up and running.
The structure will be a four-lane, 18-mile span that will be higher than existing bridges to allow more boat traffic into Jacksonville. The vertical clearance height of the new bridge will be 65 feet from the water line, compared to the existing 45 feet of clearance of the Shands Bridge. The additional 20 feet will match the Buckman Bridge’s clearance and is an improvement for marine commerce.
Southland Holdings LLC has been awarded the contract from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to construct the bridge. The project is expected to take up to five years.
A technical proposal was submitted as part of the bid, with FDOT assessing technical expertise when selecting the most qualified team to complete the project. Southland received the highest technical score of all proposers.
The design-build team of WGI Inc., Johnson Bros. Corporation and American Bridge was selected to complete the project.
“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with FDOT and our ability to provide recurring customers with critical infrastructure solutions,” says Southland CEO Frank Renda. “We are extremely excited to get started on this historic project for Southland in one of our core regions and end markets.”
Southland, which has its headquarters in Grapevine, Texas, is a provider of specialized infrastructure construction services across North America, including bridges, tunnelling, transportation and facilities, marine, steel structures, water and wastewater treatment, and water pipeline end markets.
The new bridge is part of the third and final segment of the First Coast Expressway, an outer bypass around the southwest quadrant of Jacksonville. It is being built a year sooner than expected.
In addition to travel lanes, the bridge will feature emergency shoulders and a multi-use pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, work is set to begin soon on a rail spur that will connect the main line in the city with the CCC, a 600-acre commercial and industrial part on Jacksonville’s west side that supports the manufacturing and logistics industries.
The new spur will connect the main rail line, north of I-10, to the mega-sfite.
Funds for the project were awarded through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund (FJGGF), an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state.
The fund, created in 2017 after a battle between lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Scott about business incentives, gives the governor discretion to distribute money to workforce training and public-infrastructure projects. Current Gov. Ron DeSantis has used trips to Jacksonville over the last 18 months to highlight the region’s logistics sector.
Last year, the city received $6 million through the program to support construction of nearly two miles of roadway and extend utilities to provide access to underdeveloped property on the east side of Cecil Airport and Spaceport.
“This new rail track will make an inaccessible area of the industrial park accessible for businesses in important sectors like manufacturing and attract new businesses to Jacksonville from across the country,” says DeSantis.
FDOT secretary Jared Perdue says investing in projects like the rail spur build upon Florida’s strong transportation network and helps to support supply chain operations and enhances economic growth.
Indeed, the rail spur project is expected to create 500 new jobs and support new business development in the region.
Laura DiBella, deputy secretary of Enterprise Florida (EFI), the principal economic development organization for the state, said she appreciates the support of public infrastructure and the workforce.
“This rail spur will have a massive benefit to the Cecil Commerce Center and northeast Florida as a whole, unlocking a strategic mega-site with tremendous job potential. EFI looks forward to working with the City of Jacksonville and all the partners involved to ensure the greatest economic impact is received due to this award.”