JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During a Saturday morning news conference to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Department of Transportation would be speeding up its I-4 Ultimate project.
It’s a $2.3 billion project that involves reconstruction 21 miles of interstate in Orange and Seminole counties. DeSantis said the FDOT has identified several segments of the project that will be accelerated by one to two months.
“None of these changes will increase the cost to the Florida taxpayer,” DeSantis said. “I’m very aware of the importance that I-4 plays in the moving of people and goods to the region, and I’m looking forward to this project being completed as soon as possible.”
The segments that are being accelerated include the interchange in Longwood, moving through downtown Orlando. It’s a segment that’s heavily traveled by people from the north who head south to visit the theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld.
It’s a big step in the right direction for travelers and vacationers. The $2.3 billion project is more than 250 days behind schedule, according to the News Service of Florida.
“If you’ve ever traveled that way on I-4, it’s been a long time coming. In terms of the construction there, it can be very congested at times,” DeSantis said.
Because traffic has gone down as more people are off the roads due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DeSantis said it was an appropriate time to ask contractors to speed up the project. Additional lanes will be closed during the day.
“We should take advantage of this pause,” DeSantis said. “People aren’t able to go to work. Kids aren’t going to school. There’s a lot of negatives involved. The fact that we don’t have as many people on the roads, let’s take advantage of that and try to make some progress.”
Efforts against the new coronavirus
DeSantis once again spoke about the changes to testing for COVID-19 throughout the state of Florida. He spoke about opening testing to anyone who may be asymptomatic but have had close contact with confirmed cases.
“If you’re somebody, even if you’re not experiencing symptoms but you’ve had close sustained contact with somebody who has recently tested positive for coronavirus, you can then come through and get tested as well,” DeSantis said.
The governor has said the state was aggressively trying to acquire tests that allow for quicker results, as well as a new test to see if a person possesses antibodies that could make them immune to further infection.
The governor said the state has the hospital capacity to treat new patients, with 44% of the state’s 67,000 beds free. In addition, 40% of beds in ICU wards are also available, he said.