The Florida Turnpike bisects the City of Minneola, but cars can't exit in the Lake County municipality. That will change in a little more than two years.
The Florida Department of Transportation is hiring Middlesex Companies to design and build a partial cloverleaf and diamond ramp interchange that will allow traffic to exit the Turnpike right into the middle of The Hills of Minneola, a giant subdivision recently approved by the city for 3,971 homes.
The developer and owner of the Hills of Minneola are donating all of the right-of-way for the project. The DOT expects to execute the contract with Middlesex at the end of the month, and there isn't an official construction schedule set until that happens, said Christa Deason, a Florida Turnpike spokeswoman.
However, the contract is for two years and construction on the $28 million exit at Milepost 279, north of State Road 50 and south of U.S. 27, is expected to start sometime in the middle of October, she said.
Extending Hancock Road south of the interchange to connect is the responsibility of Lake County, and the extension of Hancock Road north will be the developer's liability, the DOT said.
Two of the ramps, Southbound on and Northbound off, will collect tolls because the other two would have paid tolls in Leesburg, Deason said.
The state project description says that the new interchange will improve the function of the regional transportation system by increasing access opportunities to Clermont and Minneola, reducing travel demand on Sections of U.S. 27 and State Road 50, and that will improve traveler safety.
The Minneola ramp has been a long time coming. It is one of three that were proposed in the early 2000s, and the last one to be built. The other two are farther north. An exit at Coleman at Mile Marker 470 was the first one to get finished. And one farther north at The Villages is being constructed by The Villages now.
"We look forward to working with the city for the ground breaking," said Deason.