Quiet impact of Spanish firm Dragados
Written by Scott Blake on August 28, 2013
Spain-based Dragados is a “super conservative” construction company that doesn’t like to talk a lot about itself, said Chris O’Neil, but the firm is making an impact in Florida from its regional headquarters in Coral Gables.
After opening the local office in 2007, Dragados now does roughly $300 million to $350 million a year in business in Florida alone, said Mr. O’Neil, the firm’s vice president of federal programs who works out of Coral Gables.
The firm’s full name is Dragados USA Inc., a New York-based subsidiary of Spanish conglomerate Grupo ACS, which has international businesses that include civil and engineering construction.
Headquartered in Madrid, Grupo ACS was formed in 1997 through the merger of OCP Construcciones S.A. and Gines Navarro Construcciones S.A.
Dragados’ Coral Gables office at 2 Alhambra Plaza handles the company’s business in Florida and the Caribbean.
Currently, the company’s largest project in Florida is the Interstate 595 Corridor Improvement Project in Broward County. It’s a design-build-finance-operate-maintain contract with the Florida Department of Transportation, or FDOT, with design and construction costs estimated at $1.2 billion.
The I-595 highway project is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
The work has featured some innovation construction techniques, including the raising of an overpass using hydraulic jacks to minimize traffic disruptions during construction. It also was a time and money saver, according to Mr. O’Neil.
“It’s really cosmic technology,” he said about that and other techniques being used for the project.
ACS Infrastructure Development, another subsidiary of Grupo ACS, was the successful bidder for the I-595 concession contract, which calls for the company to operate and maintain a 10.5-mile stretch of I-595 for 35 years.
The project will add three reversible express, variable-toll lanes in the median of the existing highway, from Interstate 95 to Interstate 75. The express lanes will be operated as managed lanes with variable tolls to optimize traffic flow.
In addition, the project includes the addition of auxiliary lanes on I-595 with combined ramps, cross-road bypasses, and grade-separated entrance and exit ramps designed to minimize merging and weaving traffic movements.
It also involves the widening of 2.5 miles of the Florida’s Turnpike mainline, 13 sound barriers, and 63 new, modified or replaced bridges.
Another $1 billion-plus project that was in Dragados’ sights was the Port Miami tunnel, slated for completion in 2015. However, the company’s bid wasn’t successful.
Today, Dragados employs more than 180 people at the Coral Gables office; at a field office for the I-595 project; and at another field office in Jacksonville for its recently awarded project for work on State Road 23 there.
The local staff includes engineers, schedulers, finance personnel, and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program liaison whose focus is to assist small, minority-owned and disadvantaged companies obtain subcontracts through Dragados, Mr. O’Neil said.
In addition, Mr. O’Neil said, the concessionaire’s operation for I-595 employs another 30 to 40 people.
And there’s been work for many more: “The amount of Dragados’ indirect employees, by means of subcontracting with about 160 firms, has surpassed at times over 2,000 indirect employees partaking in the I-595 Express project alone,” Mr. O’Neil said.
Another major project recently completed by Dragados in a joint venture with local firm MCM was the renovation and improvement of Miami International Airport terminals – a project worth about $150 million, Mr. O’Neil said.
In addition, Dragados has done several small Florida Department of Transportation projects and constructed “IMA House,” a television studio in Hialeah.
Dragados also has provided technical assistance for Brickell CityCentre, a massive housing, office and retail complex in construction by Hong Kong-based Swire Properties just north of Mary Brickell Village.
Elsewhere in Florida, Dragados was recently awarded a contract worth nearly $77 million for the widening of State Road 23 in Jacksonville. The firm also was recently awarded a $75 million contract for work on Segment E of the I-75 corridor.
In Broward County, Dragados soon is to start construction of the Sunrise Boulevard Bridge (State Road 838), a job worth about $9.3 million, Mr. O’Neil said.
Meanwhile, the company plans to go after future projects.
“Dragados USA… searches for opportunities in all major civil works projects throughout the state,” Mr. O’Neil explained.
“There are numerous segments still pending award on the I-75 corridor projects that Dragados wishes to pursue as a continuation to the I-595 project,” he added. “We are actively looking at the [State Road] 826-Palmetto Expressway project, as well as several opportunities in Puerto Rico that fall under the jurisdiction of the Coral Gables office.”
Regarding the current state of Florida’s construction industry, he added: “There seems to be plenty of work in the pipeline and on the drawing boards for Florida-based companies. The FDOT has done a tremendous job administering and securing the required funds to renovate and modernize Florida’s infrastructures.”