I-4 Ultimate landscaping adds color to the corridor

Plants along I-4 grown, gathered locally

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s been nearly two and a half years since the I-4 Ultimate project broke ground in February 2015, and the outward signs of progress have become more apparent.

News 6 traffic anchor Amy Biondello saw one sign of that forward momentum that has started to add a bit of color to the corridor.

Big Drive ground was broken near late spring to plant some roots for the project.

"Late May marked a milestone on the I-4 Ultimate project,” Jessica Ottaviano, with the Florida Department of Transportation, told Biondello. “We actually planted our very first tree to go in on the corridor."
The first red oak trees were planted at the brand-new Grand National overpass, which is set to open this fall.

Landscaping alone makes up a $28 million portion of the overall project budget, and the 21 freshly planted oak trees were just the beginning.
"For the 21 miles of the project, there are plans for over 11,000 different types of trees. There are 4,400 palms that we'll be putting in, 10,000 different buffering shrubs and then over 60,000 smaller shrubs that will include some ground covering,” Ottaviano said.
The landscaping contractor spent more than a year preparing for that day. Landscapers had to make sure that the new plants would be set up for success and compatible with Central Florida's unique climate, which is why much of the plant life on I-4 was grown and gathered locally and irrigation was no oversight.
"Part of the landscaping that we are doing on the project will also include over a million square foot of irrigation to help maintain the plants," Ottaviano said. “And we've already picked plants and trees that are native to the area and that will be able to adapt to the climate so that they have a good survival rate within the area."
The first trees by Grand National show how far work has come.
"So putting landscaping in means we're starting to set this iconic signature corridor that we plan on having here in the Central Florida area,” Ottaviano said.