LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Some much-needed transportation improvements could be on hold if Florida can’t get an additional $1 billion to fund the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate project.
The project includes 40 miles of improvements including road widening and new bridges beyond the north and south ends of the I-4 Ultimate project. It spans from State Road 434 in Seminole County to U.S. 27 in Polk County. Monday, Rep. Darren Soto hosted a transportation round table for the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio.
“I-4 is a poster child for what’s wrong with the infrastructure in the United States of America and why we need 21st century transportation infrastructure plan," DeFazio said.
DeFazio said he spent time driving along I-4 in Orlando Sunday.
“It was pretty slow and pretty crowded on a Sunday. I can’t imagine what it looks like on a work day in rush hour," DeFazio said.
He said the proposed improvements through I-4 Beyond the Ultimate project from State Road 434 in Seminole County through U.S. 27 in Polk County are necessary, but Florida shouldn’t have to foot the bill on its own.
“The problem we’ve had is that the federal government has not increased their gas tax or diesel tax since 1993, and states have had to do it on their own. They can’t do it on their own and this is not just a state of Florida problem, this is an international destination. We need to be a better partner," DeFazio said.
Orlando Economic Partnership President Tim Giuliani attended the round table and said only two out of five trips along I-4 are on time. The delays cost the average commuter about a $1,000 a year. Soto said things will only get worse with the rising population.
“When I-4 was first created in the 1960s, we only had a half a million people living in Central Florida, now we’ll hit probably 2.7 to 2.8 million. So you can see these roads are in desperate need of improvement and expansion. It’s critical that we get this funding on the federal level," Soto said.
DeFazio is drafting a Moving Forward Package, which is new legislation that would contribute substantial federal funding to new transit opportunities, high speed railways and interstate improvement projects like I-4 Beyond the Ultimate. The bill is expected to be completed in April.
Soto said without federal funding, there is no timeline on how and if the continued I-4 construction will be funded.