Highlighted in orange is the stretch of S.R. 417 to be expanded, which runs from Lake Jesup south to the Seminole/Orange county line, where Aloma Avenue intersects with S.R. 417.
Highlighted in orange is the stretch of S.R. 417 to be expanded, which runs from Lake Jesup south to the Seminole/Orange county line, where Aloma Avenue intersects with S.R. 417. (Charles Minshew/Mapbox, Open Street Map)

The $125 million widening of State Road 417 has taken its first step toward construction, with the Florida Department of Transportation seeking a civil engineering firm as the project's first building services supplier. But despite the progress, the road ahead is not a smooth one.

The project calls for the addition of two managed lanes in each direction that would charge drivers a higher toll rate to avoid congestion.

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After being halted by the recession, the seven-mile project is now "under protest" by a general contractor, which in effect puts it on hold.

Hubbard Construction Company of Winter Park filed the protest through its attorney Bryant Miller Olive P.A. of Tallahassee last month, when bids were out for a general contractor.

Hubbard did not give a reason for the protest, and did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. Frederick J. Springer, an attorney with Bryant Miller Olive, said the firm was not at liberty to speak about pending litigation.

Rather than continue to wait for resolution of the protest, the FDOT said Tuesday it was seeking a civil engineer that would monitor the project, and be out on the roadway each night checking the day's work.

The civil engineering firm will receive about $12.5 million of the project's budgeted cost,  FDOT spokeswoman Christa Deason told GrowthSpotter.

The FDOT will use a scoring system that demonstrates the companies' "awareness and understanding" of the project, according to bid documents.

For engineering firms that apply, their approach to project/quality control will be awarded 0 to 15 points; understanding of scope/constructability comments will get 0 to 15 points; proposed staff qualifications will receive 0 to 20 points; proposed staffing, approach, availability, alternatives and proximity to project limits will get 0 to 20 points; proposed staff experience will receive 0 to 20 points; the proposed team's overall experience (including prime and subconsultants), corporate support and past performance will draw 0 to 10 points.

The response deadline for prospective civil engineers is Feb. 22. The FDOT project's technical review committee will issue its long list on March 14, and a short list of finalists March 29. The final selection meeting is April 18.

The FDOT has not determined the method it will use to choose a general contractor when it is able to move ahead, but has usually used lowest bidder in the past.

The agency went ahead and opened bidding for a civil engineer despite the protest because it likes to have an engineer in place before a GC is chosen, Deason said.

The widening of S.R. 417 has been planned for almost 10 years and was shelved by the recession as fewer cars used the road.

The project was never scuttled "because of capacity," said Deason. "We need more lanes to handle the current traffic" and what will come in the future.

Under plans by the FDOT, the widening will turn S.R. 417, also known as Seminole Expressway, into an eight-lane road from its current four lanes between the Orange/Seminole county line (intersection with Aloma Avenue), and just south of Lake Jesup in Seminole County.

The project is expected to take three and a half years, and when complete drivers will have to pay an extra toll to use new "express" lanes between State Road 434 and Aloma Avenue. Aloma Avenue, Red Bug Road and state roads 434 and 426 will all receive interchange improvements.

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The Seminole County Commission says the widening and extra toll lanes are not necessary, because S.R. 417 is rarely that congested.

"We have roads in the region that are much more congested," Seminole County Vice Chairman Brenda Carey told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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