Officially ending months of inter-agency negotiations over funding for the $1.7-billion Wekiva Parkway toll-road project near Orlando, Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad in late May signed a memorandum of agreement with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, or OOCEA, that pushes the long-planned project one step closer to reality.

Image courtesy Fla. Dept. of Transportation
The Florida Dept. of Transportation and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority will each separately manage various sections of the $1.7-billion project.

The Florida Dept. of Transportation and OOCEA will each design, construct, own, operate and maintain separate portions of the planned 25-mile-long tollway, which will complete Orlando's beltway. The two agencies, which previously had announced a preliminary agreement to build the project in May 2011, have determined that OOCEA will contribute $530 million and FDOT $850 million.

Located in Orange, Lake and Seminole counties, the project will construct 25 miles of new expressway, widen seven miles of state Route 46, reconstruct the U.S. 441/state Route 46 interchange in Mount Dora and relocate C.R. 46A for environmental purposes.

Earlier, the Federal Highway Administration had given FDOT the go-ahead to seek design-build proposals for a three-mile, $35-million section—the only section currently identified for design-build delivery. FDOT advertised for this segment, covering sections 4A and 4B, in March; the agreement indicates construction will begin by October.

Overall, the Wekiva project is divided into eight sections. OOCEA will oversee sections 1 and 2. FDOT will build the remaining sections 3 through 8. HNTB is engineering sections 1-5, and Atkins is designing sections 6-8.

OOCEA plans to divide section 1, estimated at $141 million, into two projects. Both are expected to start construction in January 2015 and finish by the following summer. Section 2 is a State Road 429/SR 46 systems interchange project in Orange and Lake counties that is estimated at $124 million. Construction of this section is targeted to start by spring of 2015, and conclude by 2017.

Following the start of those OOCEA projects will be FDOT’s three biggest sections. Section 6, a Lake County segment estimated at $198 million, is scheduled to start construction in 2016.

In 2017, the $108-million section 7A on SR 429 in Seminole County will start construction. A $260-million Interstate 4 interchange in Seminole County is slated to commence by summer 2018.

Robert Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders' Association, Tallahassee, commented on the long-sought project becoming a reality, saying, "We're excited that the project is finally moving forward. A lot of people worked very hard to bring the project onboard. The construction will provide jobs for many central Floridians, and the parkway, once completed, will provide the missing link in Orlando's beltway."