OCALA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Marion County to announce the state is awarding a $4-million grant to help build a new interchange at Interstate 75 in Ocala.
DeSantis said the new interchange — which has been in the works for years, according to the Florida Department of Transportation — will help traffic in the area. But really, the big announcement Friday morning involved a massive gas station with an equally large cult following.
DeSantis said when the interchange is completed at NW 49th Street, it will be completed at the same time as a brand new Buc-ee’s gas station to be built in the same area. It will be the third location in Florida, joining other locations in Daytona Beach and St. Johns County.
DeSantis said the new Ocala location will be “massive” with 120 pumps, 720 parking spaces and an 80,000-square-foot store.
“They make so much stuff. They have those beaver nuggets, they have all kinds of barbecue they make...It’s basically like the Shangri-La of service stations when you go into a Buc-ee’s,” DeSantis said.
At one point on Friday, DeSantis threw bags of Buc-ee’s “Beaver Nuggets” into the crowd and asked people to try them.
“These things are kind of addicting so beware,” he said.
Buc-ee’s co-founder Arch “Beaver” Aplin was also at the news conference Friday and praised DeSantis and Florida’s approach to business.
“We’ve known that 75 would be a great interstate for a long time, looking for the right piece of property. And so when we realized that there was an opportunity that this entirely new interchange would be created then it really opened our eyes for the opportunities here,” Aplin said.
According to campaign donation records, Aplin also gave $100,000 last year to “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” a political action committee that backs Gov. DeSantis.
It’s unclear when the interchange and the Buc-ee’s will be completed, but DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024, hinted that the road project would be expedited.
“What I said is on this, I was like I don’t know what the normal schedule is, but I think the sooner that people are able to go to Buc-ee’s the better so why don’t we try to step on the gas. So stay tuned on that,” DeSantis said.