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Park under the Expressway
No! "A Park" under the Expressway


This rendering shows the planned "Bridge District" Orlando hopes to build underneath the reconstruction of Interstate 4, a multiuse park that would connect the Amway Center area to the heart of downtown Orlando.
Rendering: City of Orlando

An important transportation project for Central Florida is the 21-mile makeover of the I-4 section that connects the Orlando, Ivanhoe and Altamonte communities. The route is called the Orlando Expressway, and it was built in four construction stages between 1958 and 1965. The route was designed to handle about 70,000 vehicles a day through downtown Orlando. At the time, "expressway" was an accurate moniker, as it turned a 40-minute trip from the suburbs to downtown Orlando into a 10-minute drive.

Then, Walt Disney World opened in Orlando (1971), followed by Sea World (1973). Sleepy orange-producing Orlando became the fastest growing city in the state, and the nation's fourth most populous state over the next 20 years. FDOT imagined a double-deck interstate of 12 to 14 lanes to accommodate projected traffic, but that was deemed unworkable. Meanwhile, over the last 25 years, there have been road reconstruction and lane widening projects to help absorb the glut of traffic.


Beneath I-4 in downtown Orlando ("downtown Orlando viaduct") the city also plans for civic space and a retail district.
Rendering: FDOT

"I-4 Ultimate," as FDOT calls the project, has an estimated $2.3 billion cost for design and construction. FDOT had approximately half of the $2.3 billion needed for the project in 2014. A public-private partnership (P3) has allowed FDOT to build this project. The design began in October 2014, and construction began a little less than a year ago. The project is estimated to be completed around mid-2020.

The scope of the project:
  • 4 new tolled express lanes (two in each direction). Toll pricing will be based on congestion,

  • 13 widened bridges (replace 74 bridges and add 53 new bridges)

  • 15 reconstructed major interchanges

  • A world-class signature pedestrian bridge

  • Accent lighting

  • Fountain illumination

  • Art sculptures and monuments

  • Bold landscape design

  • Monumental direct-connect pylons

  • Bridge architecture

  • Concrete paving

  • Steel tub girders

  • Architectural cladding

Space below underpasses is often just neglected, empty land (see "Skies of Concrete", a photographic book of how people are using just such spaces). The area under I-4 near the Amway Center in Orlando is now primarily a parking lot. In December 2015, the city of Orlando revealed a plan for a "Bridge District" for that FDOT-owned space under the interstate. The plan is to build a five-block linear park there that would connect the Amway Center area to the heart of downtown Orlando. The conceptualized plan for the park includes soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds, etc., plus a civic plaza and retail district. Plans for the eastern block of the Bridge District include art murals that depict community life in Parramore, an African-American neighborhood.

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October 17, 2019, 9:30 am PDT

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