FDOT celebrates strong 2022, eyes projects ‘nearing completion’ next year
Sanibel Causeway reopens in record time. Image via FDOT.

FDOT keeps on truckin’.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is celebrating an eventful 2022, and already has its sights set on several big projects that will move closer to completion in 2023.

“Florida has a diverse transportation system, so it’s important that we continue to balance the needs of our communities with safety and environmental considerations, while also providing an advanced and resilient transportation infrastructure,” FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue said in a statement.

“From safety mobility options for Floridians and visitors, to facilitating an effective supply chain, a reliable and robust transportation system truly impacts all of us on a daily basis.”

In early June, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 2023 fiscal year budget, a $109.9 billion package that included a $12.6 billion carve-out for statewide transportation projects in FDOT’s five-year work plan.

Among the investments emphasized in the plan: $4.4 billion to build 180 new highway lane miles, $1.2 billion to resurface 2,690 lane miles, $867 million for rail and transit programs, $314.5 million for aviation improvements, $236.6 million for bridge maintenance repairs and replacements, $160.1 million for safety initiatives and $135.9 million in seaport infrastructure enhancements.

FDOT remained a major contributor to hurricane relief efforts this past year through its response and recovery efforts before, during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which tore across Southwest Florida in September, killing more than 100 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Before the storm made landfall, FDOT suspended tolls and pre-staged equipment and teams that sprang into action as soon as the storm passed to provide first responders, suppliers, emergency repair personnel and utility restoration teams safe access to impacted areas.

That included the construction of a temporary bridge reconnecting Pine Island and Sanibel Island to the mainland in less than three days. FDOT also prioritized emergency repairs to the Sanibel Causeway, a locally owned road Ian washed away and, in 15 days, reopened the road to the public a week ahead of schedule.

When Hurricane Nicole struck less than a month and a half after Ian dissipated, FDOT crews again worked with local agency partners, law enforcement and communities on recovery efforts, including the reconstruction of State Road A1A across three counties in three days.

“As Florida’s unique geography and climate continue to create conditions that demand a more resilient infrastructure, FDOT continues to incorporate the needs for resiliency in all research, design and project planning efforts,” an FDOT press note said.

“Florida’s population continues to rapidly increase and welcomes 100 million visitors annually. Providing a safe transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods, enhances economic growth, and preserves the quality of our environment and communities is essential.”

The Suncoast Parkway Extension was one of several efforts FDOT saw through this past year. Image via Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.

In the rearview

In February, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise opened the Suncoast Parkway Extension, which connects Citrus County with the Tampa Bay area, complete with 15 bridges, five wildlife corridors, a new pedestrian bridge and an expanded Suncoast Trail.

Five months later, FDOT reached substantial completion after more than seven years on the Interstate 4 Ultimate Project, the largest transportation effort the state has ever undertaken, according to the department.

The Central Florida project involved building 53 new bridges, replacing 74 other bridges and widening 13 more on a 21-mile stretch of I-4, with 15 major interchanges undergoing reconstruction and four express lanes opened.

FDOT also began work on a new NASA Causeway Bridge in Brevard County to replace an existing causeway built in 1964 and provide new access to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

In October, the bus rapid transit SunRunner line connecting downtown St. Petersburg with the beaches opened. FDOT covered 25% of the project’s cost, according to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. And in December, FDOT saw the opening of Terminal C at Orlando International Airport through a $157 million state investment.

Crews working in February on the I-4 and SR 557 project, which FDOT expects to finish in 2023. Image via FDOT.

The road ahead

FDOT noted “several key projects” will near completion next year.

That includes the I-4 and SR 557 project, an estimated $70.5 million undertaking to replace an existing interchange in Polk County.

“The intent of the project is to prepare the median along I-4 to accommodate (future improvements) with provisions for special purpose (express) lanes and a high-speed rail corridor,” FDOT personnel wrote.

The project involves widening SR 557 travel lanes, demolishing and replacing a bridge and constructing a new wildlife crossing under the interstate, which will reconnect the wildlife corridors in the Hilochee Wildlife Management Areas for the first time in 50 years.

FDOT expects the project to reach completion halfway through 2023.

Another effort, a widening of SR 388 in Northwest Florida for improved and safer access to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, is expected to be finished in Spring 2023.

“Improvements along the four-mile project include a new traffic signal at the new SR 388 and SR 79 intersection alignment, a multi-lane roundabout at the entrance to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, a new bridge over Crooked Creek, a 12-foot shared-use path along the south side, and buffered bike lanes,” the project’s webpage says.

FDOT also made mention of the $818 million Interstate 395/SR 836/Interstate 95 Design-Build Project in Miami-Dade County, whose completion date was kicked back in November to summer 2026.

The massive project, first announced in early 2018 with a then-expected completion target of 2023, includes three significant pieces: a double-deck viaduct on SR 836, also called the Dolphin Expressway; a “signature bridge” resembling a fountain (or spider, according to critics) on I-395 in downtown Miami; and an “Underdeck” park below the interstate and bridge reconnecting the Miami neighborhoods of Edgewater, Omni and Overtown.

“Progression of the First Coast Expressway project in Northeast Florida also continues,” FDOT personnel wrote, “with construction of the new St. Johns River Bridge being the next major segment of the project.”

Once finished, the First Coast Expressway project will span 46 miles across Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties. Its combined costs exceed $1 billion, according to its webpage, which lists 2025 as the next nearest completion date of a project segment.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • rustic

    December 29, 2022 at 7:55 am

    Let’s not forget that sleezy charter flight service to steal immigrants from Texas and fly them to Martha’s Vineyard. Silence of the Lambs? Yeah, pave the entire State to crowd in more yanks. Pathetic

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