With the coastal city of Port St. Lucie, Florida rapidly growing to become the seventh-largest in the state, building an additional route to safely evacuate in the event of a hurricane was an increasingly critical concern for leaders and residents alike. “The community’s involvement was present throughout the project,” said Rachel Back, RS&H design project manager. “The groundbreaking event was on a Tuesday morning and over 300 people showed; you could see how much it meant to the community.”
The Crosstown Parkway Extension was a significant project for the city when the bridge opened at the end of 2019 and the full project completed in early 2020. The plan introduced a new 1.5-mile connector roadway to improve traffic for the residential coastal area of Port St. Lucie and provided connection to US 1.
A 4,032-foot-long bridge was required to traverse the North Fork of the St. Lucie River (a navigable waterway) and the Savannas Preserve State Park. The additional expansion relieves traffic congestion, adds bicycle lanes and sidewalks, and provides another hurricane evacuation route.
RS&H was the lead engineer for the RS&H-Archer Western Design-Build Team that successfully partnered to complete this essential project and save the city $12 million by using design-build to help reduce costs.
Moving Forward with Care and Innovation
The city had been waiting for the project for almost 40 years. Initially, the bridge was included in the city’s 1980 Comprehensive Plan; it was deemed essential as a third east-west connection for hurricane evacuation. The two existing corridors were heavily congested with constrained capacity.
The project covered around 1.5 miles of roadway enhancements and a 0.75-mile bridge over the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. The bridge crosses an environmentally sensitive area, which required the minimization of wetland impacts and protection of the Savannas Preserve State Park.
This project features unique architecture for the city’s signature bridge with thoughtful drainage design, utility coordination and design, and extensive landscaping. When thinking through the addition, the city and team wanted to connect it to the surrounding community by implementing new sustainable and aesthetic features like tiered walls, lighting, feature towers, native landscaping, and scenic overlooks.
The team utilized top-down construction from a trestle to protect sensitive environmental areas. This reduced construction costs and greatly reduced construction impacts, making the project more palatable to permitting agencies.
“Because it was design-build, it allowed us to use a lot of innovation,” said design project manager, Rachel Back.
Worth the Wait
With the project in the planning stages for 40 years, the city worked diligently to make this longstanding Crosstown Parkway Extension project happen.
Everything was thought of meticulously; the design-build team created a very durable structure with a lifecycle of about 75 years while including imaginative techniques that improve safety and mobility.
A unique feature of this project was incorporating a superstreet intersection at Crosstown Parkway and Floresta Drive. This innovative intersection is a type of restricted crossing u-turn intersection (defined by the Federal Highway Administration) which was the first of its kind in the state. Superstreets improve traffic flow, safety and operations and have been adopted successfully in many other states.
Left: Design phase visualization used to communicate about the project with the public and key stakeholders; Right: Constructed project
The city and design-build team did not envision a plain roadway. They saw the project as a way of connecting two segments of the city and providing access to new waterfront areas, adding a waterfront park, trailhead, canoe launch, art features, bike lanes, and making the corridor a walkable scenic area that would be used and enjoyed by the residents.
Innovation in the design-build process allowed the incorporation of new sustainable features after project award. Tiered walls, lighting, towers featuring commissioned Guy Harvey tile murals and sculptures, extensive landscaping, and scenic overlooks were included early into the design – aesthetics were never an afterthought.
An Award-Winning Landmark in the Community
Once the bridge was complete, the city had a grand opening event to reveal the work to the community. “This project was one of my favorites to work on and is really special to me,” said Rachel Back, design project manager. “The big grand opening had around 10,000 residents and it was rewarding to see the excitement and anticipation.”
The community celebration included food, music, an antique car parade over the new bridge and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Since its completion, the project has been a praised achievement for the community and has won several industry awards.