No Walk on the Beach

Deere ADTs put their prowess to work helping rebuild Florida’s Hurricane-ravaged Highway A1A

A1A Florida Scenic Highway sign

In early September 2017 when Hurricane Irma computer weather models were forecasting an eastern Florida trajectory, coastal residents no doubt were thinking "Here we go again."

After all, it was just 11 months prior that many narrowly escaped Hurricane Matthew's wrath. The 2016 weather event that wreaked havoc on Haiti was initially projected to wallop the surfside community of Flagler Beach with devastating ferocity. Instead, the eye of the storm remained 50 miles at sea as it roared by on its northern trek.

Although spared major damage, 100-plus-mph sustained winds arrived at high tide, giving rise to an ocean surge that pummeled and washed away large portions of Highway A1A. In its wake, 1.3 miles of the scenic coastal highway were left impassable.

With their only vehicle access gone, the futures of several small local businesses were in jeopardy. That, plus a detour that redirected heavy traffic through residential neighborhoods on Flagler Beach's Central Avenue, made it necessary to get the roadway repaired and reopened as quickly as possible.

The only state highway damaged by Matthew, A1A's reconstruction received the immediate attention and full support of Governor Rick Scott. In a press release concerning the storm's impact, he said, "Getting our communities back to work as quickly and safely as possible is our number-one priority, and we must make A1A operational as soon as we can." At the Governor's request, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) urgently began writing the contract and soliciting bids for the temporary fix.

Ormond Beach-based Halifax Paving, Inc. was one of four companies invited to bid on the 45-day project.

250D Dump Truck hauling boulders by the beach


"We began putting our bid together on Friday, submitted it Saturday, and FDOT opened the bids on Sunday," recalls Halifax Vice President Joey Durrance. "I came in the office Sunday morning, got online, and just kept hitting refresh, refresh, refresh about 100 times trying to find out who was awarded the bid. They called me at 10:30 and said, 'Your bid is awfully low — are you ready to do this?' I replied, 'Yes, we're ready to begin tomorrow.' "

"There was a lot of work required in a really short time prior to submitting our bid," adds Halifax Project Manager Josh Lloyd. "Usually FDOT gives us material quantities and a little more time, but not on this one. Our surveyors and estimator did a great job of figuring out how much dirt and rock were needed — getting incredibly close on the numbers. Plus, our transportation person got the trucking arranged, and our purchasing manager worked miracles finding all of the equipment and materials."

Aggregates, dirt, fabrics, traffic barriers, machines, and manpower all had to be sourced and onsite as soon as possible. "After hearing from Josh that we’d won the bid, I worked the phones pretty hard on Sunday," says Purchasing Manager Fred Iannotti. "We had granite coming in by rail from Macon, Georgia, and large shore boulders trucked in from Jacksonville, Florida. Plus 15,000 tons of coquina rock and 24,000 cubic yards of sand from nearby quarries. It was pretty amazing the way it came together."

250D Dump Truck dumping a load of boulders on the beach


The project began with crews cleaning off the beach and gathering up debris. "Asphalt, granite boulders, busted-up boat docks, and walkways — you name it, it was scattered everywhere," says Lloyd. "We couldn't bury anything, it all had to be removed."

As the loads of rebuilding materials began to arrive, so did the headaches. With only one lane of highway remaining on which to navigate, it became a logistical juggling act. "We had 40 dump trucks coming down half a road with no place to turn around," recalls Lloyd. "Many were tractor-trailers, which didn’t make it easier, but we needed the larger trucks for getting the big rock onsite. And it was all happening while they were attempting to unload and the concrete traffic barriers were being set up."

We faced a lot of challenges and still managed to complete the work ahead of schedule.

Joey Durrance
Vice President, Halifax Paving, Inc.
Highway sign indicating the A1A is open


Traffic jams were perhaps the biggest challenge. But there were plenty of other obstacles. High tides combined with a strong "nor'easter," making the beach off limits for a few days. Once the elevated surf finally subsided, two John Deere 250D-II Articulated Dump Trucks (ADTs) completed the task of shuttling the boulders used to rebuild the highway shoulder.

"We had a couple of other off-road trucks, too, but we kept them up top," recalls Lloyd. "The coquina on the beach is really tough stuff; it’s just dead and has no bottom to it. But the Deere ADTs are really strong trucks and managed to get through it."

Then there were the short working days, with slow starts due to turtles. "It was the end of nesting season, so we had to wait to begin work until biologists scoured the beach each morning looking for hatchlings," explains Lloyd. "And we couldn’t work at night, because lights would disturb the turtles."

"I don’t think Josh or I slept for two weeks," says Durrance. "We faced a lot of challenges and still managed to complete the work ahead of schedule."

"This was a high-profile project and the highlight of my 28-year career," says Iannotti. "It literally dropped out of the sky and into our laps, making it an incredible challenge.

But we pulled together as a team and got it done. Plus, it was an honor to meet the governor. And the locals were genuinely grateful that we completed the work and reopened the highway so quickly."

Halifax Paving, Inc. is serviced by Nortrax, Orlando, Florida.