5 things to know about I-4 Ultimate

FDOT says express lanes could possibly open at end of February

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s been seven years since construction began on a key construction project for Interstate 4.

The I-4 Ultimate Project will introduce express toll lanes in both directions of the interstate over a 21-mile stretch that runs from the Kirkman Road exit in Orange County to the State Road 434 exit in Seminole County, according to the project’s website.

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The more than $2.3 billion project broke ground on Feb. 17, 2015, shortly after a notice to proceed was issued by the Florida Department of Transportation.

According to the project’s website, here’s what drivers can expect:

  • A complete reconstruction of I-4 within the existing right-of-way
  • 15 major interchanges are undergoing complete reconstruction
  • 74 bridges are being replaced, 13 bridges are being widened, and 53 new bridges are being added
  • Four new express lanes, two in each direction, will be added to the center of I-4
  • Improved design will result in raising the speed limit from 50 to 55 mph in certain areas

Where we are today

After years of work, the express lanes could possibly open at the end of February, according to FDOT. These express lanes are estimated to relieve 20% of congestion, FDOT officials said.

“To date construction on the express lanes is largely complete, with just minor elements and punch list items being wrapped up,” said Jack Adkins, the director of development for the FDOT District 5.

FDOT also said it’s wrapping up emergency response training along the lanes, including mock exercise scenarios.

Tolls and pricing

Toll prices will vary depending on how many cars are using the express lanes. During the introductory phase, the tolls will start at $0.50 per section, which totals up to $3.50 one way. Jeremy Dilmore with the Florida Department of Transportation said the dynamic tolling prices will help with congestion.

“That’s to go ahead and make sure that we can have a reliable trip in those so you can get to point A to point B by ensuring those lanes aren’t congested because they are priced accordingly,” Dilmore said.

The rate structure, which FDOT is currently developing, will be designed to help keep cars in the Express Lanes moving at 50 mph.

The following payment transponders will be accepted:

  • SunPass
  • Peach Pass
  • NC Quick Pass
  • LeeWay
  • E-ZPass
  • EPass

According to the Ultimate Project’s website, “The cost of the tolls will vary based on demand. Rates will go up or down depending on the traffic volume and will be higher during peak periods when demand is greater and lower during non-peak periods when demand is less.”

Special features

There will be more than 140 customized medallions placed throughout the 21-mile stretch of I-4 Ultimate, according to the project’s website.

“Each city and county in the project corridor consulted with the I-4 Ultimate team to design the medallions for their area, which will commonly bear the municipality’s emblem and motto,” the site said.

Part of the “Innovation” feature for the project includes a pedestrian tunnel under State Road 436 between Douglas Avenue/Wymore Road, ramp signaling, and “advance traffic management technology.”

“Sensors and traffic cameras that enable FDOT to monitor traffic conditions in real time are built into other infrastructure, including overhead sign trusses,” according to the website.

How other cities utilize express lanes

Express lanes are being used on Interstate 95 in Miami and on Interstate 595 in Fort Lauderdale. Express lanes have also been added to State Road 528/Beachline Expressway in Central Florida and on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa.

“As a comparison, drivers on 95 Express in Miami pay a minimum of $0.50 and a maximum of $10.50 to travel seven miles (that project will be 22 miles upon completion in 2015). 95 Express is maintained through dynamic, or ‘congestion,’ pricing,” the project website said. “The I-4 Ultimate Express Lanes will also be dynamic priced toll lanes, and the general use lanes will continue to be free, as they are today. Drivers will be able to enter and exit the Express Lanes in several locations along the 21-mile project zone, so not only is the toll based on congestion but also the distance the driver travels.”

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.