Relief is on the way for one of the worst bottlenecks on the I-4 corridor.
Tawny Olore, Osceola County’s transportation director, told GrowthSpotter the state has fast-tracked $8.4 million to reconfigure the ChampionsGate interchange at C.R. 532 as a diverging diamond interchange.
The interchange is scheduled to be completely rebuilt as part of the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate (BtU) project. But that project is currently only funded for right-of-way acquisition. Construction funding isn’t anticipated until 2040.
“We’ve been working with FDOT and ChampionsGate because the interchange has been breaking down,” Olore said. “There’s just too much traffic, and it backs up all the way to U.S. 27. We’ve been in discussions with FDOT to do some interim fixes.”
The short-term approach calls shifting the traffic pattern using the existing infrastructure and widening the on and off ramps. The new design should reduce congestion on the interstate and on C.R. 532 by eliminating the queue for the left-turn movement.
“This should really help provide some relief,” Olore said. “We’re very excited to be partnering with FDOT on this project.”
Osceola County published a Request for Proposals, RFP, for the design consultant to engineer the project. Olore said the county received state funding for its Hoagland Boulevard widening project, which freed up the money to pay for the interchange design. FDOT moved the project up in its Five Year Work Program, and the Federal Highway Administration is expected to approve the necessary Interchange Modification Report by the time the county selects a design team.
“They got the funding for Fiscal Year 2021, which means it’s available in October 2020,” Olore said. “So we can do the design for a year and go right into construction. We could, conceivably, have this in our area working and functioning within the next two and half years.”
FDOT began construction in January on a similar project in the Tampa Bay area, converting the existing I-75 interchange at S.R. 56 in Wesley Chapel to a diverging diamond.
That’s only part of the solution. Olore said the Florida’s Turnpike Authority and FDOT are also planning to add auxiliary lanes linking the ChampionsGate interchange to the S.R. 429 interchange. The lanes would likely be extensions of the on-off ramps.
That means vehicles could go directly between C.R. 532 and S.R. 429 without ever having to merge onto I-4. The Turnpike also will be adding a northbound auxiliary lane between S.R. 429 and Sinclair Road. The $25 million project is funded for design in FY2020 and for construction in FY2022.
When BtU does eventually get built, the interchange would have to be expanded to accommodate additional interstate lanes. But it would still be a diverging diamond.
“It’s the same concept, but a bigger version,” Olore said. “It will have more pedestrian features and bike lanes.”
Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.