SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Traveling between Sanford and Mt. Dora just got easier.
The Florida Department of Transportation early Monday opened its longest section of the Wekiva Parkway.
“Finishing the beltway around Central Florida has been a project that folks have been discussing and planning for, for 30 years,” said Mary Brooks, the community outreach specialist for the Wekiva Parkway. “It’s really going to make it easier for folks to get back and forth between Sanford and Lake County, Mt. Dora and many other destinations.”
The section stretches more than 6 miles on new, elevated roadway. Drivers can enter or exit State Road 429 near Camp Challenge Road in Lake County and via ramps west of Longwood Markham Road in Seminole County.
This stretch also includes several wildlife crossing bridges to help keep drivers and animals safe in the Wekiva River basin.
“This section, in particular, has wildlife fencing,” Brooks said. “It’s got the mile and a half of the wildlife crossing, so animals can pass safely underneath the traffic.”
TRAFFIC RELIEF: This morning, drivers are getting their first look at a new stretch of the Wekiva Parkway.— Mark Lehman (@MarkLehman6) May 16, 2022
A six mile section opened around 5 a.m.
It’s the largest part of a project that will eventually create a western beltway around I-4.https://t.co/OPvuGHNhuF pic.twitter.com/r7qV8aNu6u
Realtor Dan Goodman, who lives nearby in Heathrow and sells homes in the area, said traveling during the construction has been frustrating.
“It’s been so congested, crowded. It’s been really slow. It’s been a set back,” Goodman said.
Goodman said he’s hopeful that when the new toll road opens it will relieve traffic on State Road 46.
“It’s been a little annoying, so we’re excited to see the change and finally get these roadways for us,” he said.
Brooks said the new parkway means people will be able to get to places at highway speeds.
“The local folks, even if they decide not to use the parkway, they’re going to see less traffic on the local roads trying to get to and from home, church and school,” Brooks said.
The new stretch comes more than six years after FDOT opened the first section of the $1.6 billion project. The 25-mile toll road will complete a beltway around the western half of the Orlando metro area.
It is also the first in Central Florida to use all-electronic tolls.
Goodman said as the area is growing, the parkway will help connect more communities and make traveling more convenient.
“It’s going to be easier to have a broader area of living. If someone wants to commute, now it won’t be such a problem and only one solution, like I-4,” Goodman said. “This will open up a lot more traffic opportunities.”
FDOT said the entire Wekiva Parkway is set to open in 2023.