Traffic around the Lake of Wales region will be rumbled again this weekend as US 27 will be closed to the SR 60 viaduct construction site all weekend.
The closure of the busy federal highway will allow construction crews to install the massive steel beams that will support the new bridge. The highway closure is expected to begin at 11:00 p.m. Friday and last until 5:00 a.m. Monday.
Elaborate detours will be put in place for the multiple potential traffic movements motorists will need to make, from north and south to east and west, and vice versa. Other detours will only affect commercial heavy trucks.
This is the second time the construction project has required the highway to be closed. The first effort in January revealed the bottleneck points that locals would benefit from avoiding. They include the south-east movement that requires drivers to follow Central Avenue to SR 60 and turn left through westbound traffic.
Another choke point developed at the intersection of Winston Avenue and the Scenic Freeway (SR 17) where east-south traffic, including heavy trucks, was directed south on the first street before turning east on Winston Avenue. They were then delayed attempting the sharp turn on the southbound Scenic Highway to head towards Hunt Brothers Road and US 27 South.
All routes will be marked with detour signs and law enforcement will be on hand to assist motorists. The Florida Department of Transportation is urging motorists to allow extra travel time and exercise caution in construction zones.
The huge, multi-year project to rebuild the old, obsolete bridge and interchange has been going on for more than 18 months. Completion is expected to take place in 2025. The result will be a completely reconfigured “urban single-point interchange” rather than the old half-trefoil design.
The closure is done for obvious safety reasons, as few would want to pass under a dangling steel beam weighing up to 90,000 pounds. The central segment beams alone are 107 feet long.
Each of the nine girders will be joined to form three continuous girders weighing 250,000 pounds and spanning 261 feet without center supports, eliminating blind spots caused by the old center piers supporting the old reinforced concrete bridge.
The new bridge will receive a deck and will be completed and ready to receive traffic in early 2023, marking a major milestone towards the completion of the project.
On average, 32 workers are on site each day, according to Adam Rose, a communications specialist with the Florida Department of Transportation. Their work has been slowed recently by heavy rain and lightning, but the contractor is on schedule to complete the job.
The following phases will include the completion of the new ramps serving the intersection, which will be located under the spans.
New signage, lighting and other necessities are also included in the project. A wall designed as a noise barrier will be built in the southwest part of the intersection. The landscaping is designed in conjunction with the City of Lake Wales, according to Rose.