40 More Miles of Ultimate-ness Lie Beyond the I4 Ultimate

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By now, most of Central Florida probably has heard of the I-4 Ultimate project – the effort to reconstruct 21 miles of Interstate 4 (I-4), including the portion that runs through downtown Orlando.

But another project called Beyond the Ultimate (BtU) may seem completely new to many residents and motorists. However, this 40-mile project, which will become better known during the next few months, actually has been in development for several years. One segment, at least, is expected to start construction in 2020.

For the average driver, who is not yet familiar with BtU, it might be easiest to think of BtU as an extension of the massive I-4 Ultimate Project. BtU extends the eastern endpoint of the managed lanes another 20 miles and also adds 20 miles to its western endpoint.

With a goal of improving safety, mobility and connectivity in Central Florida, the BtU project is a complex undertaking that is expected to rebuild and improve 40 miles of Interstate 4. When complete, it will cover twice the length of the current I-4 Ultimate project.

Both BtU and I-4 Ultimate will improve pavement, ramps and interchanges, and both projects will maintain the current six non-tolled lanes while adding four dynamic tolled Express Lanes (two in each direction). The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) oversees both projects.

“Beyond the Ultimate will bring improved safety and mobility to Central Florida and will help increase connectivity between communities,” said FDOT Project Manager Beata Stys-Palasz, P.E., who is leading the BtU project. “We are very excited to see some of the segments moving closer to construction so that residents and motorists can reap these benefits.”

While state and federal funding has been designated for several sections, the area closest to a construction date is Segment 2, which is a 3.6-mile section that runs between Central Florida Parkway and Kirkman Road (S.R. 435). That work may start in early 2020.

The BtU project is divided into six design segments. Each must undergo a stringent, multi-step process that includes planning, environmental study, preliminary design, right-of-way considerations, design and construction. While the sections stand at different points in the overall process, the Development and Environment (PD&E) Reevaluation Study has been finalized for the entire project.

In more detailed terms, BtU extends about 20 miles beyond the eastern end of I-4 Ultimate (stretching from S.R. 434 in Seminole County to just east of S.R. 472 in Volusia County). On the western end, BtU will run about 20 miles from west of Kirkman Road in Orange County through part of Osceola County to just west of the U.S. Highway 27 interchange in Polk County.