Extra On Getting There: Maneuvering around I-4 delays on secondary roadways

By Ryan Harper, Real-Time Traffic Expert
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 4:46 PM EST

Imagine travelling I-4 westbound from Lake Mary all the way through State Road 408, going at 120 miles per hour, and it literally taking you about three minutes to get there.

  • Taking secondary roadways not necessarily quicker
  • Sky 13 pilot says I-4 is a "bottleneck" at certain tmes of the day
  • Take into account extra congestion on secondary roadways

Well, you wouldn't actually be in your car; you would be in a helicopter like Sky 13.

But on a morning like we had Wednesday morning, if you were in your car, you would be adding an extra 45 minutes of travel time in both directions just to get into downtown Orlando.

This begs the question, 'Are those secondary roadways to get around I-4 any quicker?'

Well, we took to the skies to find out.

To do that, we enlisted the help of Sky 13 pilot Chris Loughran who has come across his fair of nightmarish bad wrecks and tie-ups along I-4.

"Honestly, my first thought is ‘I'm glad I'm in the helicopter,’” joked Loughran.

From what he sees, Captain Chris, as he is known around the Orlando Executive Airport, says he would just avoid I-4 altogether.

"I'm not suggesting that OBT or 17/92 are particularly good alternates in the sense that there's a lot of stop lights, and then more people like to get off I-4 and move to the roads. You'll have more traffic,” he said. “To me … there are certain times of the day when I-4 is just a bottleneck.  It's just awful."

We measured a few roads to be exact in the sky and on the ground.  From Lake Mary to State Road 408 in downtown without any traffic would take you 15 minutes. On US-17/92 from Lake Mary to Colonial Drive would take you over 33 minutes without traffic.

In the sky without wind — three minutes.

This means you should only start thinking about an alternate when the I-4 delays are well over 20 minutes, because you need to take into account extra congestion on the secondary roads at that point.

On the eastbound side of I-4, driving from Conroy Road past Colonial Drive in downtown takes about six minutes without traffic. If you were to use either John Young Parkway or OBT from Americana Boulevard to Colonial Drive, that would take you nearly 15 minutes.

In the sky, it takes about a little under a minute and a half.

This means when I-4’s overall travel time spikes above 20 minutes, you should at least start considering an alternative. Again, this does not mean the secondary roadways will be much better.

As for Loughran, he's just glad he gets to work before all the madness unfurls.

"I take a look at that mess behind and me and think, 'How late are they going to be to work?'.  How do you explain that?” he said. “I can't be late to work.  I don't know how they explain that every day.”