By Erika Webb
Eight months into the Interstate 4 road-widening project, thousands of commuters traveling between DeLand and Daytona Beach haven't had to exercise too much patience. It's a good thing, because those from the south side of DeLand don't have a free and clear alternative in U.S. 92 since that's under construction, too.
The state began the process of widening I-4, from east of State Road 44 to Interstate 95, from four to six lanes, last May.
There will be reconfiguration of the interchange at Interstate 4 and U.S. 92 with the existing left hand exit from eastbound I-4 to U.S. 92 changing to a right hand exit. The project is expected to be completed by October 2014, at a cost of just over $134 million, according to the state Department of Transportation website.
More than 50,000 vehicles traverse that section of roadway daily, according to FDOT's online Annual Average Daily Traffic Report. And the report shows an anticipated increase to 61,500 for the stretch of highway between S.R. 44 and U.S. 92 by 2025.
Chris Padilla and her husband Angelo each travel I-4 daily from south DeLand to Ormond Beach and Holly Hill for work. Ms. Padilla said she's usually on that stretch of the highway by 7 a.m.
"So far it hasn't changed anything, and I hope it stays that way," she said. "I really thought it would cause problems, but the fact that it hasn't probably has to do with the times they work on it."
She said Mr. Padilla's only complaint is that most of the traffic tends to shift into the left lane "because they're afraid of the orange barrels."
"He said don't talk to him about 92; that's another story," Ms. Padilla said.
FDOT Public Information Specialist April Heller said construction has not created any issues, and stressed there will be no lane closures between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Wildlife is being considered as well.
"Environmental mitigation is provided by constructing three bridge animal crossings under I-4, each 100 feet wide," Ms. Heller reported.
"Numerous small animal crossings are being created with elliptical pipes under the highway, and special wildlife fence will direct animals to appropriate crossings. Also, all standard within the project, are relocations of animals and some plants," she added.
Daytona International Speedway Senior Director of Public Relations Lenny Santiago said he doesn't anticipate any construction-related hurdles during upcoming speedway events.
"We'll work with DOT to minimize any impact, but I think it will run just as smoothly as it has before," Mr. Santiago said.
He added that speedway officials are very happy with the I-4 widening project.
"Anytime you have infrastructure improvements to ingress and egress for fans, it makes for a more positive experience, so we're thrilled with the project," he said.
Traffic accidents have been about the same along the interstate where the work is being done since the project got underway, according to information provided by Trooper Wanda Diaz, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol.
FHP reported 115 non-fatal and two fatal crashes from May 1, 2011-Jan. 3, 2012. The agency reported 114 non-fatal and one fatal crash between May 1, 2012 and Jan. 3, 2013.
For the second week of January, FDOT reported lane closures in the area from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and eastbound outside shoulder closures from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The agency advised motorists to be aware of trucks entering and exiting the highway from the median and outside shoulders.