ORLANDO, Fla. – At the Kirkman road exit Tuesday afternoon, patrol cars were still parked at the end of the I-4 Express lane direct-connect off ramps with lights flashing, very visible to any drivers who might inadvertently try and get onto the off-ramp going the wrong way.
When the I-4 Express lanes first opened five months ago, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) started paying local law enforcement to stand guard at all direct-connect off-ramps.
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News 6 learned how much it’s been costing taxpayers.
FDOT told News 6 it has paid $804,000 for safety enforcement since the Express lanes opened at the end of February.
News 6 was first to report that FDOT collected $1.4 million in tolls from the Express lanes for the month of March.
“Staging officers when major changes occur on a project is a common practice that has been done not only throughout the construction of I-4 Ultimate but on other major projects as well,” said Peyten Maki, FDOT spokesperson.
“While designs and construction are thoroughly thought out and executed precisely, a huge component of new infrastructure is user behavior,” Maki said. “Drivers sometimes depend on other vehicles being present for visual cues on where to travel. Law enforcement offers an additional visual aid for motorists, but they are also making observations to report back to FDOT. This information is very valuable for the Department to make any necessary enhancements such as additional signage as well as evaluating how motorists are adapting to the new conditions.”
News 6 first noticed the patrol cars positioned at Express lane direct-connect off-ramps after the first wrong-way wreck in May.
The driver who caused the first wreck told News 6 he believes he inadvertently entered the I-4 Express lanes going the wrong way using a direct-connect exit.
Direct-connect ramps deliver drivers directly from the Express lanes in the center of the highway to local roads.
Since that crash, with patrol cars stationed at exit ramps, there have been no further wrong-way crashes in the Express lanes.
After News 6′s reporting on the crash and the potential for future wrong-way crashes, FDOT began installing wrong-way vehicle detection systems (WWVDS), with cameras and flashing lights, at all I-4 direct connect off-ramps a year earlier than planned.
Maki said all ramps should have the detection system in place by summer of next year.
“Using information provided by law enforcement, the Department reevaluates each I-4 Express direct connection ramp location every two weeks and determines if additional resources are needed while crews install Wrong-Way Vehicle Detection Systems (WWVDS),” Maki said.