In the full scheme of Gov. Rick Scott's plans for Florida, the $43 million Eller Drive Overpass Project at Port Everglades is like scoring a hat trick for the state economy: It kills three birds with one stone, the governor claims.
- It gives 1,076 construction workers a job, boosting the South Florida economy almost instantly.
- It positions the state to become one of the premier destinations in the United States for Panama Canal jumbo-container traffic.
- It takes more than 100,000 Port Everglades-bound, oversized semis off U.S. 1 and State Road 84 -- without fail, loosening up daily traffic jams.
This project is all about jobs, providing an efficient movement of traffic to and from the port and improving the local economy, said Scott during last week's groundbreaking in Fort Lauderdale, then later in the week during his radio broadcast. Because of this project, traffic connections will be greatly improved between the port and I-595 and between the port and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Overpass reconstruction includes several ramps, upgrades to intersections, new railroad tracks and crossing signals, retention ponds, lighting, landscaping and irrigation.
The biggest solution to the chronic Fort Lauderdale traffic mess will be the elimination of big trucks on local roads, Broward officials say. Once the project is complete, cargo can be transferred directly from ship to rail and rail to ship at Port Everglades. And because trains will be prepared for travel at the port instead of the Andrews Avenue rail yard, commuters no longer will be held up by long delays at the State Road 84 crossing while trains are loaded and unloaded.
"This project is also critical to moving cargo and goods from the port to the rest of our state," said Scott in his weekly radio address. "We are working to ensure Floridas ports will be able to handle this future growth and the increase of international trade that will come along with it."
The Eller Drive Overpass will provide a grade separation for freight rail at the main access roadway to Port Everglades and eliminate a potential crossing blockage. This project would eliminate a potential on-grade rail crossing and the associated delay for trucks/buses/taxis and passenger cars in and out ofPort Everglades.
According to the project's consultants --Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pa. --the use of rail will eliminate an estimated 200,000 trucks entering and 200,000 trucks leaving the port, for a combined total of 400,000 truck trips from the port and regional highway system.
The project also involves the widening, realignment, and construction of service roads parallel to the overpass.
Both Port Everglades and the Port of Miami have made plans for rail operations near their docks to handle growing trade.
"I am confident that with projects like the Eller Drive Overpass at Port Everglades, Florida will be ready to benefit from the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014," said Scott.
The estimated personal income generated by these jobs due to the construction of the overpass is approximately $43.7 million.
Port Director Phil Allen told Sunshine State News, "We had the groundbreaking, but we're already working to realign the tracks and install barrier walls for road work."
Phase I/Stage A was scheduled to begin July 5 and finish October 2012.
Later this week, Phase I/Stage B is scheduled to begin July 21, and finish February 2013. The entire Eller Drive project has been arranged to be completed by 2013.
"We are well on our way to making Florida the best location in the world to start, grow, or move a business," said the governor.
Marcus Joseph, a newsroom intern, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (850) 727-0859.