Salas O’Brien’s new Orlando office has unique capabilities in engineering for high-speed tolling. Here, Adam Levine, Principal, shares details on what exactly these projects entail and why he loves working on them.
How long have you been doing high-speed tolling projects?
This office has been doing high-speed tolling projects for more than 20 years. I’ve been working on them for about three and a half years.
Who are your typical clients?
Here in Florida, our end client is typically Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) or FDOT. We often partner with civil engineering firms that range in size from small local companies to large international companies. Some examples include Bentley Architects and Engineers (BAE), T.Y. Lin International Group, Stantec, Jacobs, Reynolds Smith & Hill, WSP Global, GAI Consultants, and Kimley Horn Associates (KHA).
How is high-speed tolling similar to and different from other engineering projects?
In some ways high-speed tolling is very similar to other highly technical government projects. Multiple levels of review are required, and the projects all have very strict requirements.
On the other hand, tolling differs from other engineering projects in that we give the installation contractor very little flexibility. For example, FTE requires that every raceway be accounted for and shown on contract drawings. This includes power, data, communication, and tolling systems.
In addition, the revenue collection systems require that every aspect of the tolling infrastructure be installed at exactly the right location and orientation to maintain system accuracy. When infrastructure is not installed exactly as needed, it has a negative effect on system accuracy and revenue collection.
Q: What are some unique challenges you've faced, and how have you overcome them?
As similar as each project may appear, every single toll site is different. They each have their own challenges. Often, the roadway engineers aren’t fully aware of the tolling requirements, forcing us to modify preferred infrastructure routing.
Often, the toll sites are in remote areas, but in the zone of one particular power company. The closest power source may be in an area that belongs to a different utility. I have to sit down with both utility companies and facilitate who will provide power to the tolling site.
What’s your favorite part of high-speed tolling projects?
I do enjoy the technical challenge. It took years of working these projects to have a good understanding of how it all works. Now that I have this experience, our clients rely heavily on my knowledge of how to put it all together. This was exemplified when we were asked to review and provide comments on the latest update of the General Tolling Requirements (GTR) document. When large roadway firms are looking for toll site designers, FTE usually points them in our direction.
Of course, like most engineers, I enjoy seeing my own work. My family/friends, on the other hand, aren’t as enthusiastic about my toll site work for obvious reasons!
What recent projects could you share?
Here are some of the latest projects I’ve been working on:
- Seven new express lane toll sites along I-95 in Broward/Palm Beach Counties
- Nine new express lane toll sites along I-4 through downtown Orlando
- Six new mainline accessible gantry toll sites along Florida’s Turnpike
- Seven new toll sites along the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike (HEFT)
- Ten new mainline and ramp toll sites along the Sawgrass Expressway in northwestern Broward County, Florida
- 17 new mainline and ramp toll sites along the Polk Parkway, near Lakeland, Florida