Construction is not uncommon on the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike (HEFT) as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) endeavors to keep traffic moving smoothly and safely in one of the state’s busiest metropolitan areas.

The HEFT, also known as the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, is the southern extension of the Florida Turnpike. The 48-mile-long expressway runs around the west and north sides of Miami extending from U.S. Route 1 in Florida City, near Homestead, to the Turnpike mainline. The roadway is used both by commuters and travelers to the Florida Keys Everglades National Park. Heavy traffic congestion is not uncommon, leading FDOT to rely more heavily on express lanes to resolve the problem.

MCM, a Miami-based construction company, has been delivering both civil and general construction projects for more than 30 years. Currently the company is involved in a HEFT expansion project that includes widening a two-mile stretch of the road to accommodate express lanes. “It’s a design/build for the Florida Department of Transportation,” says Bob Murphy, MCM director of civil operations. “It’s a widening of the turnpike to add express lanes.”

Express lanes serve several purposes including managing congestion, enhancing transit services, accommodating future regional growth and development and improving emergency evacuation, according FDOT. When express lanes begin to reach capacity, the toll is increased to discourage drivers from entering the lanes, allowing the express lanes to maintain a certain level of trip reliability, the agency says.

Challenges Abound

The widening project, like all roadwork, presents numerous challenges, but chief among them is “maintaining safe travel through the work zone,” Murphy says. Additionally, keeping traffic moving as work continues is a daily goal for MCM. “You don’t want to impact the traveling public or you at least want to minimize the impact,” he says. “Realigning traffic is a lot of work. It’s complicated, but it’s necessary. It’s our mission to do the work expediently.”

MCM was awarded the contract in July 2014, and design work started in October. Construction of the two-mile stretch of road began in June 2015 and completion is anticipated in mid-2017. The work is being performed in segments, which prolongs the length of the project, Murphy adds.  

Maintaining a schedule and working safely are of significant importance to FDOT, which scores companies such as MCM on their work. Scores are released monthly and at the end of a project. “We’re rated on several categories,” Murphy says. For example, FDOT scores companies on timely and complete submission of documents, environmental compliance, mitigating time and cost overruns and minimizing the impact to the traveling public. “Ultimately, it’s your final score that counts,” Murphy says, adding that high scores are essential to winning future contracts.

Murphy credits FDOT for being a good partner on the various highway projects the company has participated in over the past several years. “We work pretty well at communicating with them,” he says. He adds that the department is open to new, innovative ways to accomplish a project, which are frequently submitted to FDOT for review. “They can bring better value to the department and the project,” Murphy says.

Aviation Work

MCM’s has enjoyed success in other areas as well. For example, the company has performed numerous aviation projects including the North Terminal Development Program at Miami International Airport.

The project included improvements in three concourses including demolition, steel structures, concrete and masonry work, new roofing and finishes, as well as a new mechanical penthouse, stair tower and elevator shaft.

MCM also constructed a highly specialized explosive trace detector building designed to support the baggage handling system conveyors, which are designed to process approximately 40,000 bags per day. The building also serves as a checkpoint through which all cargo is screened for improvised explosive devices. 

Beginnings in Cuba

MCM was founded in Miami in 1983 and specializes in heavy civil and building construction. Its experience includes transportation, airport infrastructure, roads and bridges, government buildings, schools and higher education, healthcare facilities and commercial infrastructure.  The firm also has offices in Irving, Texas and Panama. 

Civil construction, however, represents more than half of the projects in Florida. The majority of work performed in Texas and Panama also is civil, Murphy says.

The company is family owned and its history dates back to 1941. For nearly two decades, founder Fernando Munilla was one of Cuba’s premier builders. He owned an engineering firm, three concrete plants and a construction management company on the island. 

Munilla’s company specialized in bridge building and heavy structural work. He spearheaded many major projects including the José Martí Monument in Havana – still Cuba’s tallest monument – and the Cuyaguateje River Bridge, which was the largest free-span bridge in the Western Hemisphere when it was built in 1954.

In 1960, Fidel Castro confiscated the firm and the Munilla family was separated. Four of Munilla’s sons were brought to the United States through the Pedro Pan airlift operation days before the Bay of Pigs invasion. They were placed in an orphanage in Ohio. Munilla stayed in Cuba, but eventually came to the United States, reunited his family and resumed his construction career in Miami. 

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