What is I-4 Ultimate?
I-4 Ultimate is a drastic 21-mile improvement of Interstate 4 in the Orlando area.
The project start at the west end is at Kirkman Road, near the entrance to Universal Studios Orlando. The eastern project end is just north of State Road 434 in the Seminole County city of Longwood. In the middle is downtown Orlando and the northern areas of town.
The project has four phases.
Lanes will be added. That bumpy and unkempt part of Interstate 4 in Downtown Orlando will be nice and smooth.
One of the best improvements on the entire I-4 Ultimate project will be the addition of limited access lanes. This will make direct travel from Disney World to Sanford much less congested. There will be few access points. To access the limited access lanes, gantries will be installed. A toll charge can be taken from any Sunpass device.
Area 1 — Attractions
This area is the westernmost one of the four phases and will require the least work. Interchanges with Kirkman Road and the Florida Turnpike will have significant changes. These will be the first major changes in over 50 years!
Interstate 4 near Kirkman Rd. Foreground, new Grand National Drive overpass. There will be a new interchange with Grand National Drive.
Current interchanges with John Young Parkway and Conroy Road will require relatively little work other than addition of express lanes.
This area will require the most work, and the most demolition of existing property to make way for widening and improvements.
A new interchange will replace the current one at Orange Blossom Trail.
The interchanges with Kaley and Michigan Streets will be realigned to allow for traffic to flow more smoothly. The exits and entrances are currently only a few hundred feet apart.
The interchange at Colonial Drive (State Road 50) will blend more smoothly with nearby interchanges with Amelia Street to the south and Ivanhoe Boulevard to the north.
The most significant change will be just to the south, where Interstate 4 meets the East-West Expressway, better known as 408.
The 408 Interchange — Relief on the Way
I-4 Ultimate to the rescue! The nightmare interchange with the 408 Expressway will be vastly improved. Gone will be the old-fashioned trumpet interchange that requires a majority of traffic to criss-cross each other. Gone, also, will be the tight curves and narrow single lanes requiring traffic to slow to a crawl.
Added will be long, high-speed ramps enabling direct access from both directions of Interstate 4 to both directions of Highway 408, and vice-versa.
The interchange improvements alone will come at a hefty price tag of $630 million dollars. This includes demolition of the old interchange, labor (mostly night work), and construction of several flyover ramps. This highest flyover ramp, westbound 408 to westbound I-4, will be 100′ above the ground below.
Most of the new ramps should be able to handle cars at a design speed of 50-55 miles per hour. Current ramps handle cars at 25 miles per hour. Only one existing ramp will remain, the one from eastbound 408 to eastbound Interstate 4.
The interchange is expected to be complete in 2021. Expect several more years of unnecessary congestion backing up onto Interstate 4.
Phase 3 — Ivanhoe
Ivanhoe Boulevard is considered the gateway to Downtown Orlando coming in from the north. A new sculpture will serve as a gateway, so to speak.
The intersection with Ivanhoe Boulevard will be reconfigured. The eastbound exit to Ivanhoe is permanently closed.
The Ivanhoe phase of work will spread north to the Town of Eatonville with various intersection improvements to the crossings and interchanges of Par Street, Princeton Street, Fairbanks Avenue, Lee Road, and Kennedy Boulevard.
The Fairbanks Curve
Just south of Exit 87, Fairbanks Avenue, is the notorious Fairbanks Curve.
Its tight turn at a high rate of speed, especially with westbound commuters, has been the site of many wrecks. Especially with rainy conditions the curve was treacherous.
The dangerous curve even has its own Twitter account!
New sign on @fairbankscurve tells you to slow down.It's the permanent sign for drivers approaching the dangerous curve pic.twitter.com/hAMe7tX4
— WFTV Traffic (@WFTVTraffic) July 27, 2012
A tweet above shows an improvement made in 2012. Signage and better striping initially cut down on the number of accidents on the curve, but the number has since been on the rise.
I-4 Ultimate will address the Fairbanks Curve by making the curve radius longer, adding lanes, and adding a smoother, more rain-resistant surface.
Phase 4 — Altamonte
The northern (or eastern) phase of work is the transition from Orange County into Seminole County.
This will include interchange improvements at Maitland Boulevard, State Road 436, and a new interchange with Central Boulevard in Altamonte Springs.
Two new overpasses will carry Maitland Boulevard (State Road 414). A current ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 onto westbound 414 is going to be demolished. A new pedestrian bridge is being built to the south of the interchange.
When finished, State Road 414 is going to be an almost fully limited access roadway from Interstate 4 westbound to Highway 429. This provides a northwestern alternate around Orlando.
The 436 Interchange
This one is less of a problem with Interstate 4 and more to do with a chronically-congested overpass that carries State Road 436 in the City of Altamonte Springs.
The original overpass was built in 1963 and widened in 1985. The 1985 widening did next to nothing to improve traffic flow on 436 in the long term.
The current configuration required eastbound and westbound traffic, and left turns from Interstate 4, to go through two different traffic lights.
The new configuration will enable anyone going through the intersection to only have to stop at one traffic signal. The new overpass will be much wider than the old overpass.
There will be a new pedestrian overpass just to the north of 436.
The Eyesore on I-4
That’s not going anywhere. Sorry.
The Northern End
The last interchange to be redone as part of the project is at State Road 434.
The westbound rest area just north of State Road 434 will be rebuilt to allow for more truck parking and longer entrance ramps back onto westbound Interstate 4.
The express lanes will begin for westbounders and end for eastbounders between the westbound rest area and the current Williamson Road overpass.
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