ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Orlando Friday to participate in a roundtable discussion about transportation, during which he touted the state’s efforts to speed up construction projects during the COVID-19 shutdown.
In total, DeSantis said 50 road projects were sped up while there was less traffic during the months of March and April when many businesses were shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The construction industry was deemed essential, which allowed workers to continue making progress on road projects.
“So we did a number of these things in that April and May time period, to really capitalize on the reduced mobility and, you know, we did the I-4, SR 408 interchange ramp in Orlando, which was obviously something that we highlighted a couple months ago, but in total we accelerated over 50 major transportation projects that collectively saved our state 650 calendar days of construction,” DeSantis said.
According to the governor, Central Florida drivers have already seen an improvement at that interchange.
“The I-4, SR 408 interchange in Orlando, we accelerated by more than three months, safety and mobility have been impacted in a positive way, but drivers have already told us how their daily commute here in the heart of Central Florida has improved, which is something that’s good,” DeSantis said.
Also in Central Florida, the project to widen Sand Lake Road was accelerated by four to six weeks.
Going forward, DeSantis said the emphasis will continue to be on keeping businesses open in a way that’s safe for both employees and patrons.
It’s his belief that keeping residents employed will help reduce their financial and mental stress.
“You look at what happens, some people lose their jobs, and obviously we focus on, you know, the economic impact about OK, you know, less money to be able to put food (on the table) and all that are very, very important but I think what also goes with that, it’s not talked about as much, it’s really a lot of anxiety and stress, particularly in this situation where someone had, you know, jobs in some of these industries, everything was going well, then you have this rapid change,” DeSantis said.
While most businesses have since reopened during the months of May and June, all Florida bars and nightclubs have been shut down for more than a month after they were connected to multiple COVID-19 cases.
[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
The governor said he’s willing to “look at” reopening bars but the state needs to “get through this period first.”
He pointed out that bars in South Florida, which has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, have never reopened and yet still the region has had major increases in cases.
When the time comes, DeSantis said industry leaders will need to get creative to come up with ways to safely reopen bars.
Florida has reported a cumulative total of 518,075 coronavirus cases and 8,051 deaths as of Friday.