110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Big changes coming to I-4: Orlando construction will last six years; Southwest Volusia portion not likely before 2020
By Al Everson
posted May 12, 2014 - 12:53:00pm
Big changes are coming to Interstate 4 over the next several years, including the addition of more lanes and toll lanes.
The Florida Department of Transportation is planning a $2.3 billion makeover for 21 miles of the superhighway in Greater Orlando. Longer-range plans call for additional improvements from Longwood northward to State Road 472, but the price tag for that project is so far unknown.
Volusia County workers who work in Orlando and families traveling to the big city's attractions and shopping will begin seeing construction between State Road 434 and Kirkman Road, perhaps by the end of this year.
"From Longwood down to Universal [Studios], it's going to take six years," FDOT engineer Frank O'Dea said at a public-information at Deltona City Hall April 24. "We're going to try to do as much work as we can overnight, but there's still going to be aggravation."
Transportation planners hope that aggravation will boost ridershlp on SunRail, the commuter-rail system that began operation May 1 between DeBary and south Orlando.
Reconstruction of the 21-mile stretch of I-4 through Orlando is known as I-4 Ultimate. Once it is finished, the FDOT will turn its attention to adding lanes northeast and southwest of Orlando.
The state road agency has christened the latter project, which includes adding standard lanes and toll lanes in Southwest Volusia, "I-4 Beyond the Ultimate."
Beyond the Ultimate is currently in the project development and environmental phase.
“This phase is just preliminary. It's just proposed plans," said Jessica Keane, a spokeswoman for the FDOT.
I-4 Beyond the Ultimate envisions widening of the 10-mile segment between U-S Highway 17-92 at Lake Monroe and State Road 472. Toll lanes will be constructed, and the FDOT proposes to build a major road project that Volusia County had to mothball because of a money shortage.
That project calls for an extension of East Rhode Island Avenue to link Orange City and Deltona with a bridge, or overpass over I-4.
For 10 years, county officials planned to extend East Rhode Island eastward from Veterans Memorial Parkway in Orange City to North Normandy Boulevard in Deltona. The extension would be a segment of about three-quarters of a mile, with the overpass.
While the county wanted to build a two-lane bridge over I-4, the FDOT may construct a four-lane bridge that would enable drivers to get into the toll lanes to be added in the future.
"It's the bridge that is the big cost," said Robert Denney, an engineer with HNTB Corp., a consulting firm under contract with the FDOT.
The county first included the East Rhode Island Avenue Extension in its five-year road program in 2004. At that time, the entire extension project — the roadway on both sides of I-4 and the overpass — had an estimated construction price tag of $5.5 million.
The project was supposed to have been completed by 2008, but increases in the cost of materials such as concrete and asphalt pushed the estimate to $15 million in 2008. Due to the cost overruns, the extension was indefinitely postponed.
Volusia County had purchased much of the right of way for the Orange City portion, but no right of way has been purchased on the Deltona side of I-4.
As for the toll lanes proposed for I-4 in Volusia County, the pay-to-drive lanes would be built in what is now the median of the road. No toll plazas would be constructed, however.
"It will be all electronic tolling," O'Dea said.
The tolls will vary, depending on the level of congestion.
FDOT officials cautioned that I-4 Beyond the Ultimate is not coming as quickly as some may wish.
"I think it's safe to say it won't happen until the 2020s," O'Dea said.
The FDOT may conduct additional public-information meetings on the I-4 reconstruction later this year, Keane said.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Al Everson, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!