The following are the Florida Department of Transportation's answers to frequently asked questions about the $2.3 billion I-4 Ultimate Improvement Project.
Where is the project located?
The I-4 Ultimate project is more than 21 miles from west of Kirkman Road (Orange County) to east of State Road 434 (Seminole County).
What is the estimated cost of design and construction for the project?
The total estimated cost of design and construction for this project is $2.3 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars.
What are some of the major improvements being made as part of the project?
Of the bridges along the corridor, there will be 13 widened, 74 replaced and 53 added, totaling 140 permanent bridges. There will also be two temporary bridges to maintain traffic during construction phasing. In addition, 15 major interchanges will undergo complete reconstruction. New Express Lanes with dynamic toll pricing will be added to the center of I-4, two in each direction, and the general use lanes and auxiliary lanes will be rebuilt. The posted speed will be increased to 55 mph along the 21 miles.
How will traffic be maintained during construction?
The project team has developed a comprehensive traffic management plan that addresses the complex nature of the construction phase, while minimizing impacts to motorists. The team is committed to maintaining the same number of lanes that exist today during peak travel times. Lane closures will be limited to mostly nighttime hours, beginning as early as 8:30 p.m. and continuing as late as 7 a.m. While some work may require ramp closures for extended periods, consecutive ramps may not be closed at the same time. The project team is required to provide a 28-day notification for full ramp and road closures, as well as long-term closures lasting more than 24 hours. Drivers will receive a 14-day notice for non-long-term lane closures on the interstate.
What are Express Lanes and how will they be utilized for this project?
Express Lanes are an innovative solution to manage traffic congestion and provide choices for travelers. This project provides additional lanes with restricted access points, and dynamic toll pricing based on the level of congestion in the adjacent non-tolled general purpose lanes, to provide more reliable travel options for motorists.
What information is available on tolls in the Express Lanes?
With more than six years until the Express Lanes are opened to the public, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is in the process of determining tolling policies and rates. What we do know at this early stage is that tolls will be collected electronically, similar to State Road 408, State Road 528 and Florida’s Turnpike. FDOT will set the rates, and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise will collect the tolls, which will be used to fund more than half of the project during the 40-year partnership. The cost of the tolls will vary based on demand. Rates will go up or down depending on the traffic volume and will be higher during peak periods when demand is greater and lower during non-peak periods when demand is less. Drivers will lock in their rates when they enter the Express Lanes and will be charged based on that rate. As we near project completion, more information about tolling will be available. Always remember that the general use lanes will continue to be free, as they are today.
What is dynamic toll pricing?
Dynamic toll pricing is based on congestion, which means the toll goes up or down depending on traffic volume. The toll will be higher during peak periods when demand for the Express Lanes is greater and lower during non-peak periods when the demand is less. This congestion pricing helps maintain traffic flowing freely by monitoring the number of vehicles accessing the Express Lanes.
How much will the toll cost?
The cost of the tolls varies based on demand and FDOT — not the concessionaire — sets the rates to regulate demand and provide reliable travel times on I-4. The rate structure, which FDOT is currently developing, will be designed to help keep cars in the Express Lanes moving at 50 mph. As a comparison, drivers on 95 Express in Miami pay a minimum of $0.50 and a maximum of $10.50 to travel seven miles (that project will be 22 miles upon completion in 2015). 95 Express is maintained through dynamic, or “congestion,” pricing. The I-4 Ultimate Express Lanes will also be dynamic priced toll lanes, and the general use lanes will continue to be free, as they are today. Drivers will be able to enter and exit the Express Lanes in several locations along the 21-mile project zone, so not only is the toll based on congestion, but also the distance the driver travels.
Are certain types of vehicles restricted in the Express Lanes?
At this time, heavy trucks will not be allowed in the Express Lanes. The types of trucks permitted in the Express Lanes are part of an ongoing discussion at the state level and may be based on the number of axles or weight. As we get closer to the project start date, more information will become available.
Are there Express Lanes currently in operation in Florida?
Express Lanes are currently operating successfully on I-95 in Miami and on I-595 in Fort Lauderdale. Managed lanes projects are also currently under development across the state, including I-75 in South Florida.
Are there other improvement projects planned for I-4?
Yes, FDOT is currently wrapping up the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Reevaluation Studies for I-4 Beyond the Ultimate (BtU). BtU covers 21.2 miles of I-4 from U.S. 27 in Polk County east to Kirkman Road in Orange County and 19 miles from State Road 434 in Seminole County east to State Road 472 in Volusia County. To learn more about BtU and the plans for improvements to I-4 throughout the rest of Seminole, Volusia and Polk counties, please visit I4Express.com.
What does “financial close and commercial close” mean?
Financial close means the concessionaire team has closed, or finalized, its financial accounts for the project — similar to a home mortgage process. Funding needed to build the $2.3 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars project is able to be released when financial close is reached. The signing of the contract is the commercial close.
Why didn’t FDOT fund this project with traditional funding?
FDOT didn’t have enough funding available for the I-4 Ultimate project. In fact, FDOT had approximately half of the $2.3 billion needed for the project in 2014. Due to inflation and increases in fuel efficiency FDOT is unable to keep pace with growing demands on the statewide interstate system. A public-private partnership (P3) allows FDOT to bring this project to the public now to meet current needs. An analysis was done showing if we built the project as funding became available, it would take 27 years to complete. By using the P3 procurement method, we are designing and constructing in less than seven years.
When will construction begin and when will the project be complete?
Construction is anticipated to begin in early 2015. Design begins fall 2014. The project is currently estimated to be designed, built and opened to the public in approximately 6.5 years.
Will there be other options for commuters during construction?
Phase 1 of the SunRail system opened on May 1, 2014, and is an option for commuters when construction of the I-4 Ultimate project begins. SunRail trains arrive at each station every 30 minutes during peak service times when traffic on the roads is typically at its worst. During non-peak periods, trains operate every two hours. Trains currently run Monday through Friday. Scheduled station departures for both northbound and southbound trains can be downloaded at www.SunRail.com.
LYNX is another option that commuters will be able to use during construction. For decades, the LYNX service has provided transportation to Central Florida residents throughout Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. For maps, schedules and more information, please visit www.GoLYNX.com.
ReThink, a service of FDOT, is Central Florida’s resource for commuter options. Programs include ridematching — where commuters can connect with other commuters to share rides to work via carpooling and vanpooling — a refresher on biking and walking safety rules, the emergency ride home service and employer consulting services. For more information, visit www.reThinkYourCommute.com.
How will the construction of the project be funded?
I-4 Ultimate will be built through a 40-year public-private partnership (P3) with a concessionaire responsible for funding the design and construction of the project. The concessionaire will earn payments during construction, final acceptance payments following construction and annual performance-based availability payments during the operations and maintenance period. The P3 mechanism will allow FDOT to share financial risk with a team of private companies, who finance a portion of the project — much like a home mortgage. FDOT’s plan includes committing public funds through its work program to finance a portion of the project. Federal, state, local and private funding sources that may be used to make payments to the P3 concessionaire include toll revenue, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) and Turnpike. Revenues from the four Express Lanes will fund more than half of the project during the 40-year partnership.
How is the public interest protected?
There are numerous safeguards built into the partnering agreements that eliminate risk to Florida and ensure that the state, taxpayers and local communities will always be protected as they continue to benefit from I-4 Ultimate. That being said, you should not be concerned about I-4 Ultimate not reaching completion. The funds for construction were secured and committed upfront, prior to the start of construction, according to strict terms set by the lenders. The project is fully funded, underway and on track for completion in 2021.
What is a public-private partnership?
A public-private partnership (P3) is a contractual agreement between a public agency, in this case FDOT, and a private sector proposer or bidder, known as the concessionaire, in this case I-4 Mobility Partners. P3s transfer some of the responsibilities, risks and/or rewards of project ownership from the public sector to a private entity for a fixed period of time.
What are the benefits of a public-private partnership?
The benefits of a public-private partnership (P3) include encouraging long-term efficiency and service quality, accelerating the construction schedule, providing a mechanism to finance project funding shortfalls and allowing FDOT and the traveling public to benefit from lifecycle cost optimization and technical innovation from the industry. The P3 procurement also allows the I-4 Ultimate project to be built 17 years earlier than traditional funding methods.
What is a concessionaire?
A concessionaire is typically a private sector firm (or firms) formed by one or more investors to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a facility under a contractual agreement with a public entity. The concessionaire team will also include key subcontractors, including the project designer, builder and operator, who may or may not be investors in the concessionaire team. The concessionaire team for the I-4 Ultimate project is I-4 Mobility Partners.
Who is I-4 Mobility Partners?
The Best Value Proposal team, I-4 Mobility Partners, features two equity members: Skanska Infrastructure Development Inc., a Swedish company founded in 1887, and John Laing Investments Limited, which opened its doors in England in 1848. Both companies are leaders in privately financed infrastructure and will be the financial arm of the I-4 Ultimate project. The team also features several United States-based firms with local Orlando offices, including Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc.; Granite Construction Company; The Lane Construction Corporation; HDR Engineering, Inc.; Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. and Infrastructure Corporation of America (ICA).
How is the concessionaire held accountable?
FDOT and its Construction Oversight Services team (comprised of HNTB, Elipsis Engineering & Consulting, the Corradino Group and New Millennium, among other companies) oversees the concessionaire, ensuring they are adhering to all requirements in the contract through regular check-ins and audits of processes and procedures, as well as a review of materials and workmanship.
Who owns the interstate under a P3 agreement?
FDOT retains ownership of the interstate in all P3 agreements. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, a part of FDOT, collects tolls for FDOT on I-4 Ultimate.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT / COMMUNITY OUTREACH
How will the community be involved in the project?
FDOT is committed to continuing public outreach throughout the duration of the project. A website, social media, newsletters, surveys, meetings and presentations, as well as ongoing communication through media partners, will be used to keep the public informed of the status of the project and community outreach activities.
How can I make sure that I stay informed about the project?
To stay informed about the project, please sign up for our e-newsletter. A mobile app for smartphones and tablets is under development. This will be a useful tool to help you manage your commute to and from work and stay up to date about the project.
How should I prepare for the project?
FDOT recommends that you start looking at other public transportation options, considering carpooling or ridesharing and talking to your employer about telecommuting or working a flexible schedule during construction. The goal is to keep commuters and workers on I-4 safe during construction, and the best way to do that is to encourage drivers to explore alternate routes and modes.
Who can I contact regarding this project?
You can contact the following FDOT project personnel for additional information: Steve Olson, FDOT District 5 Public Information Manager, telephone: 386-943-5479, or Loreen Bobo, P.E., I-4 Ultimate Construction Program Manager, telephone: 407-670-2341. You can also submit your comments and questions or receive the latest information by visiting www.I4Ultimate.com/contact-us.