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Florida’s Turnpike: What’s happening with all that construction?

In World
March 03, 2024

GROVELAND — Florida’s Turnpike, once a scenic highway through lush orange groves, is now a test of patience and endurance, with views of piles of pilings and battalions of bulldozers.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise is widening the busy highway from two to four lanes in each direction, from State Road 50 in Clermont to Hancock Road in Minneola (mileposts 273 to 279) in Lake and Orange counties.

It is projected to cost $162.3 million. Construction is expected to continue through 2026, according to Turnpike Enterprise, an arm of Florida’s Department of Transportation.

This overhead photo, provided by Florida's Turnpike, shows construction in Lake County in February 2024.

This overhead photo, provided by Florida’s Turnpike, shows construction in Lake County in February 2024.

Plans call for replacing or building four bridges over the turnpike and constructing a roundabout on both sides of County Road 455 at Old Highway 50.

The days of fishing around in your pocket for change are also history. Toll booths are being leveled so license plate readers can scan your tag and send you a bill.

Work is also underway to widen lanes from four to eight from Hancock Road in Minneola to north of O’Brien Road (mileposts 279 to 286) in Lake County.

It is estimated that this project will cost $233 million and construction is expected to continue through 2028, the agency says.

It is also making improvements to the State Road 19 interchange with U.S. 27 at milepost 289 in Lake County. That is expected to cost $2.6 million and to be completed early this year.

Work will generally take place during off peak hours, officials said.

The reason for all the changes is that the scenery has changed from orange trees to rooftops following devastating freezes that killed citrus crops in the early 1980s.

Turnpike Enterprise services 20 counties with various systems, from north to south Florida.

Lake County has grown from 105,000 to 404,000 from 1980 to 2022, at an annual growth rate of 3.3 percent, according to Turnpike Enterprise. That’s greater than Orange County’s annual rate.

“The average annual growth in the Turnpike service area counties has exceeded the overall state average growth in the last four censuses. This higher growth rate is forecast to continue through 2035,” according to the 2023 Traffic Engineer’s Annual Report.

The population of the state has boomed upward from 9.7 million to 22.2 million.

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Turnpike “transactions” have shot up from 55,463 in 1980 to 1,138,036 to 2022.

Traffic on the Lake County sections will continue to grow rapidly, between new homes being built by The Villages at the Lake-Sumter county line at the County Road 470 exit, the Wildwood-Interstate 75 intersection, and projected explosive growth along U.S. 27 from Leesburg to Clermont and Minneola.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Major construction happening on Florida’s Turnpike. Here’s a review.

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