Florida's Turnpike being widened to major urban expressway through Orlando - going 4 to 8 lanes

March 20, 2008

Florida Turnpike Mainline through the Orlando area is changing from being a longdistance highway to one with a heavy local traffic load. Tuesday night (Mar 7) the Turnpike Enterprise took away the barriers on the first wider segment between I-4 and FL528 aka Beachline West Expressway, about 7km (4.5 miles). It is now 4+4 lanes compared to the original 2+2 lanes going back to original construction in 1965.

The work involved reconstruction and widening of a Shingle Creek bridge, four overpasses and some of the ramps for the I-4 interchange. The FL528 Beachline/Turnpike interchange has recently got south facing ramps to cater to all movements.

The work opened this week is described as MP254-MP259, took 2 years, and cost $78m.

Work proceeds under two separate contracts on the remaining 17km (11 miles) of widening northwesterly past the Turkey Lake service plaza and head offices of the FTE to the FL429 tollroad of OOCEA, and a bit beyond to MP270.

The widening of the Turnpike Mainline is adding one lane inside and one continuous travel lane on the outside of the existing 2 lanes each direction. For a couple of miles between the connections to FL408 and FL429 the new Turnpike will be ten lanes because an auxiliary lane will be added between interchanges. (Auxiliary lanes make post-ramp merge and pre-off ramp diverge lanes continuous, easing the pressure of weaving movements of entering and exiting vehicles.)

The project involves several more overbridge replacements and widenings of bridges-over, as well as lots of soundwalls. The soaring 4-level stack interchange with the Turnpike Mainline at FL429 opened a couple of years ago with the widening in mind.

Pavement is asphalt.

Cost of the whole project covering 25km (just under 16 miles) is $292m. Added is about 100 lane-km, (62 lane-miles) of new travel lanes which computes to $4.7m/lane mile ($2.9m/lane-km).

Beachline West also being widened

The Turnpike Enterprise is also widening 4 miles (6.5km) of the Beachline West expressway (FL528) on either side of the Turnpike Mainline and putting in open road tolling at the toll plaza on this spur road which links to the I-4 not far from the entry to the Disney complex on the west side and to OOCEA's tollroad which heads to the area airport.

Pavement in this $75m project is being added for 4+4 lanes but only 3+3 are being striped for use for now.

There are no major land costs involved in any of these projects, says the Turnpike's Christa Deason, since the original right of way reservation was generous. The exception is where some stormwater ponds are being built. These ponds are also used in flat Florida as "borrow pits" to gain fill for raising the road level (SEMANTIC ASIDE: Borrow is in this usage a conman's smoochie term since borrowing without an intention to repay is fraud!)

All new interchanges on the Turnpike are to be cashless all-electronic toll and their timing and funding is up to developers of nearby housing or commercial estates.

BACKGROUND: Orlando with a population of 1.8m has an excellent network of expressways and has relied heavily on tolling to build and manage them. The area sees about 1.25m toll transactions per day with three toll authorities.

Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority (OOOCEA) operates four toll expressways that provide basic north-south and east-west connectivity.  The Turnpike Mainline and the spur Beachline West cater to northeast-southwest movements and through traffic between southeast Florida and the state's panhandle and Atlanta GA. The only untolled expressway in the region is I-4 which runs southwest to northeast. The Osceola Parkway is a surface arterial tollroad that was built to link the Turnpike at MP249 to the Disney theme parks.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-03-20

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