Two major Interstate 4 road improvement projects are set to start in Polk and Osceola counties, creating new interchanges at busy intersections that are overdue for some relief.
In Polk, international construction and development company Skanska recently was selected to lead the reconstruction of I-4 at State Road 557 interchange on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation. The $70.5 million design and reconstruction will transform the interchange from an existing partial cloverleaf interchange configuration to a diamond interchange with 557 going over I-4.
Slated to start next month, the Polk interchange construction will create a regular diamond with on and off ramps and 557 going over I-4. In Osceola at ChampionsGate, a diverging diamond will be constructed, a more complicated interchange with County Road 532 going under I-4. Following the 557 interchange improvements, Polk County will widen 557.
“The county through our transportation plan had done some analysis and had determined that 557 was a failing roadway based on volume and capacity,” Jay Jarvis, roads and drainage director for Polk County told GrowthSpotter. “We found 557 is being used as a way around (U.S.) 27.” Polk County had hoped to widen 557 from the south side of I-4 to Lake Alfred concurrent with the interchange work, Jarvis said, but is still in the planning and design phase with Tampa-based engineering consultant Dewberry.
“We are probably 2.5 years from construction,” Jarvis said. “We started design and permitting. Then we’ll start right of way acquisition.” The $88 million project is partially being paid for by FDOT, which has committed to pay about $5 million for right of way purchases and $3 million for construction.
Skanska, a Fortune 500 company based in Stockholm, Sweden with U.S. headquarters in New York, will build the I-4/557 interchange with a new bridge to carry traffic over the newly widened I-4 to accommodate future tolled express lanes and a high-speed rail (HSR) corridor. Construction is projected to begin next month and be completed summer 2023.
Designed by Jacksonville engineering firm DRMP, the project also will include two new bridges on I-4 to allow for wildlife crossings between the natural areas to the north and south of the project. Wildlife fencing will be provided along the I-4 limited access right-of-way line to channelize wildlife movement, according to Skanska.
In Osceola, the $11.4 million reconstruction of the I-4 interchange at C.R. 532 is set to begin in the spring of 2021 and take about a year and a half, FDOT project manager Su Hao told attendees at public hearing this month.
The joint project between FDOT and Osceola County is supposed to ease congestion at one of the worst bottlenecks on I-4 at the ChampionsGate interchange. Osceola is designing the project, while FDOT will construct it. “We’re wrapping up the design work right now,” Osceola Project Manager Conroy Jacobs told GrowthSpotter. HNTB, with offices in Bartow, was hired to do the work in 9-10 months and they were right on time, he said. After FDOT approves the design, the state will let the project and select a contractor.
The 532 interchange is scheduled to be completely rebuilt as part of the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate (BtU) project. That project is currently only funded for right-of-way acquisition. Construction funding isn’t anticipated until 2040 so Osceola and FDOT fast tracked an interim reconstruction to change the interchange to a diverging diamond from a regular diamond.
Similar to Polk County, Osceola also plans to widen 532 to four lanes from 2 starting in FY 2023 to FY 2024.
“This is going to mean a lot for Osceola County in terms of the county’s position in terms of pedestrian and motorist safety,” Jacobs said. With sidewalks and bike lanes, “residents and visitors can easily walk and get from point A to point B and hopefully reduce some of the vehicular trips.”
In addition to the interchange, auxiliary lanes from C.R. 532 to State Road 429, the Western Beltway, also will be added as a separate project in coordination with the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. Auxiliary lanes are added between two interchanges and is not a continuous through-lane. That means vehicles could go directly between C.R. 532 and S.R. 429 without ever having to merge onto I-4.
These lanes are added to provide space and capacity for cars to merge and exit the interstate. Construction of the auxiliary lanes is expected to start as early as fall 2021, cost $22.9 million and take a year and a half to two years.
The intersection will have dual southbound left and right turn lanes at C.R. 532 and I‑4 westbound ramp terminal intersection. Dual northbound left turn lanes at C.R. 532/I‑4 eastbound ramp terminal intersection.
The section of I-4 between C.R. 532 and S.R. 429 serves — on average — nearly 130-thousand vehicles each day, with more than 20-thousand vehicles traveling on C.R. 532 and another 25,000 vehicles traveling on S.R. 429 daily.
“We’ll definitely have better flow of traffic, which usually results in less crashes as well,” Jacobs said. “The diverging diamond eliminates a lot of the left-turn movement. It will reduce the conflict points”