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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – The historic opening of the last Wekiva Parkway lanes was completed today, Friday, January 26. This last section completes Central Florida’s beltway — connecting State Road (S.R.) 429 to S.R. 417 and Interstate 4 (I-4) — while helping to protect the natural resources in the Wekiva River Basin

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E., District Secretary John E. Tyler, P.E., Nicola Liquori, Executive Director of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, representatives from the Central Florida Expressway Authority, state and local elected officials, and other environmental advocates and community partners held a ribbon cutting to celebrate opening the remaining 2.6 miles of the $1.6 billion Wekiva Parkway project.

The final connection includes the northbound/eastbound parkway from S.R. 46 near Orange Boulevard, under I-4 and connecting to S.R. 417 near Rinehart Road. Building this major Wekiva Parkway interchange – filling the last link in Central Florida’s beltway – included expanding two miles of I-4; building or widening more than 20 bridges; and creating a new urban interchange to provide access to and from International Parkway.

“It’s road projects such as Wekiva Parkway that break the mold on how projects are built. Wekiva Parkway is not only an achievement for transportation, but also a win for the environment surrounding it,” said FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E. “I’m grateful for Governor DeSantis’ unwavering leadership and keen environmental stewardship that allows the Department to develop and implement projects that go above and beyond to meet transportation needs of our communities. This is a community-focused project, and the Department’s attention to design and detail shows that.”

Completing the beltway while going above-and-beyond to protect the natural resources surrounding the Wekiva River – a National Wild and Scenic River and Florida Outstanding Waterway – is a major accomplishment for the state and has established a new model of excellence nationwide. The National Transportation Planning Commission and other transportation planners now refer to the “Wekiva Parkway model” when developing major improvements through environmentally sensitive areas.

The Wekiva River Basin provides habitat for rare or threatened species including the Florida Black Bear, Bald Eagles and Burrowing Owls. Developing the parkway included limiting the number of interchanges in natural areas, conserving 3,400 acres of land, installing 1.5 miles of wildlife crossing bridges, and other environmental protections.

FDOT District Five Secretary John E. Tyler, P.E., said the key to the Parkway’s success was partnerships with environmentalists, state agencies, and local governments and communities.

“We built bridges for this project that protected our natural treasures and preserved natural spaces for future generations,” Tyler said. “I’m proud of what FDOT has done, but we are just one piece in the puzzle. I want to thank all of our local partners who committed to making one of the most comprehensive environmental and construction partnerships a model for future success.”

This final parkway connection from S.R. 429 to S.R. 417 closes the gap in what is now the 100-plus-mile beltway around Central Florida. The completion of the beltway means added convenience for area residents, businesses, and visitors. Previously opened sections of the parkway are seeing more than 21,000 vehicles a day, making travel easier, and reducing commute times. Traffic on the elevated parkway means fewer vehicles on S.R. 46, enhancing safety for people and wildlife.

Work on the first sections of Wekiva Parkway began in 2013, with FDOT opening the first parkway stretch in 2016. The 25-mile Wekiva Parkway was the first expressway in Central Florida to feature all electronic tolling, for customer convenience and to keep traffic moving.

Some of the final connections are expected to open Friday night, January 26, with the remaining connections opening early Saturday morning, January 27.

Drivers will be able to use all the interchange movements while crews continue finishing touches that will require some intermittent lane closures. Construction schedules are subject to change due to weather or other circumstances.

The connections expected to open Friday night included new S.R. 417 northbound lanes that will take motorists under I-4 to connect with S.R. 429; the ramp from I-4 eastbound to S.R. 429 southbound; and the ramp from International Parkway onto S.R. 429 southbound.

On Saturday morning, new S.R. 429 northbound/eastbound lanes will open and connect with S.R. 417 southbound. Motorists also will be able to take S.R. 429 northbound/eastbound to I-4 in either direction.

FDOT encourages motorists to use a SunPass to take advantage of the greatest travel savings. Those without a SunPass or other Florida-accepted transponder may pay their toll via Toll-by-Plate. The toll for this section for two-axle vehicles is $0.54 for SunPass/transponder customers. The toll for those using Toll-by-Plate will be $0.81, plus a $2.50 administrative charge. Learn more about parkway travel costs on the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise Toll Rates website.

Project information can be found on www.WekivaParkway.com. Media inquiries should be directed to the FDOT District Five Public Information Office at FDOT-D5COMM@dot.state.fl.us or by phone at 386-943-5593.