Construction crews, large machinery and those all-too-familiar bright orange cones have returned to the intersection of S.R. 56 and I-75, as work on the much-anticipated Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) has finally and officially resumed.

Superior Construction Company Southeast, LLC, was chosen by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and surety bond companies to replace D.A.B. Constructors, which defaulted on the project on July 1 and went out of business shortly thereafter. 

D.A.B. defaulted on six other projects in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, including the S.R. 54 widening project from east of Curley Rd. to east of Morris Bridge Rd. 

D.A.B. told FDOT on July 28 it could not afford to complete the S.R. 54 widening, due in part to penalties incurred by missing benchmarks on the DDI project.

Superior began work to complete the $36-million DDI on Sept. 13, which included mobilization of labor, equipment and materials, erosion control, survey, jobsite cleanup of debris and office setup. Full maintenance responsibility was transferred to the new contractor on Sept. 20.

The project, originally scheduled for completion before the end of 2021, is now expected to be finished within 10 months, likely in the summer of 2022, said FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson in an email.

Superior also currently is working on the realignment of S.R. 52 in eastern Pasco County. Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore represents District 2, where the DDI is located, and he said he was happy with the choice.

“I’ve heard great things about them,” Moore said. “And they are actually ahead of pace on the S.R. 52 project, so that’s a good sign.”

Stepping into a new project that already was more than halfway finished is unusual but not unprecedented in the construction business, especially considering the effect that Covid-19 and staffing issues have had on the entire construction industry. 

“While this process is not how a typical FDOT project is executed, there are procedures in place for replacing a contractor,” Carson said. “It will take the new contractor some time (a few weeks) to clean up items from the previous contractor in order to complete the new work items. The new contractor evaluates the remaining work items and prices the items that are left to complete. Superior has already mobilized a staff and are in the process of mobilizing crews to complete the work.”

Meanwhile, the surety company put out an advertisement for bids for completion contractors on Sept. 9 for the $42.5 million S.R. 54 widening project, and were expecting to receive bids by the end of the month.

A subcontractor, Southern Precision, has been taking care of the S.R. 54 site in the meantime, with mowing, little control and filling potholes. Last week, work began on milling driveways and side streets, as well as some paving.

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