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Longwood community meets over rest stop concerns

Project part of The Big Drive on I-4

LONGWOOD, Fla. – Local families and a church are angry over a piece of the Interstate 4 construction project that renovates a rest stop next to their neighborhood.

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Florida Department of Transportation officials met with members of the community Monday evening to explain the project and answer questions.

As FDOT crews widen I-4 they also plan to revamp the rest area in the westbound lanes north of State Road 434 in Longwood. The rest area will get a make-over, with improved parking spaces, new retention ponds and ramps that will make safer exit and entrance onto the soon-to-be elevated interstate. There's even talk of putting up a 12-foot wall to block out noise and fumes from all the trucks and cars.

The renovation project would cost between $5 million and $9 million. A project of that size makes neighbors worry FDOT does not intend to close the rest area after all. Neighbors want it closed and moved to a rural location, and said it is a promise they heard years ago.

"The problem we have is, it should never have been here after 2002," said Dominick Salfi. "When are they planning starting work on this change of our rest area? At one point, he said next Monday. There's not much time to do anything and that's the whole purpose of why I can't trust them at this point."

FDOT officials promised the rest area will close, but said, "It just takes time," and that officials need to find a new location first. But there is no set date of when and if that new rest area would be built, leaving the Longwood westbound rest area open until it does.

"I am trying to believe that they will close it. It would be easier to do so if they would give a time frame," said Connie Greaney.

FDOT officials said residents' concerns about trucks backed up and overflowing at the rest stop would need to be addressed by the Florida Highway Patrol.