FDOT announces expansion of Interstate 75 through Marion County

Traffic on I-75 was at a stand still northbound after a tornado tipped over a couple of semi trucks. The storm devastated homes, businesses and apartment buildings on Saturday March 12, 2022 in Ocala, Florida. Many structures were damaged but there were no injuries reported. r [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Ocala Gazette]

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Posted September 29, 2023 | By Caroline Brauchler

The Florida Department of Transportation has announced a nearly half-billion-dollar project to expand Interstate 75 through Marion and Sumter counties.

Officials from FDOT, the Florida Highway Patrol, Marion County and Sumter County gathered in the Marion County Commission Chambers Tuesday to announce the I-75 project as well as another key project, expanding U.S. 301, as part of the Moving Florida Forward Infrastructure Initiative from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I’m very excited to announce that as part of the moving forward afford initiative, the widening of I-75 from State Road 44 to State Road 326 will officially begin construction in the spring of 2025,” said FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue.

To widen the interstate, auxiliary lanes will be added to each direction of I-75. An auxiliary lane is the portion of the roadway that separates traffic entering or exiting the highway to allow drivers to speed up or slow down.

The project will cost a total of $479 million, funded by FDOT through Moving Florida Forward. Modifications to interchanges on I-75 between S.R. 44 and S.R. 326 will also be made, in addition to acquiring land for future widening of the interstate, if need be, according to FDOT.

FDOT estimates that the project will three to four years to complete once construction begins, said District 5 spokesperson Cindy Lane.

Local officials said they hope the project will help alleviate many residents’ concerns about traffic in Marion County, given the large amounts of growth that the area is seeing, said Craig Curry, chairman of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.

“Florida is experiencing around 1,000 new residents a day. Marion County is experiencing about 200 (new) residents a week; that’s a pretty good portion of that 1,000,” Curry said.

The project is also intended to increase safety, and ideally reduce the number of vehicle crashes on the interstate, which often require lane closures.

“Every day, there’s over 100,000 vehicles that pass through Marion County and Ocala on I-75. 25,000 of those are truck and tractor trailers and on average, unfortunately on average, for about every nine days, that section of road either north or south is shut down due to accidents,” Curry said.

Also, multiple interchange projects are planned to relieve I-75 congestion. These include, but are not limited to, the State Road 200, County Road 484 and the State Road 40 interchanges.

“A couple of corridors that are important to know about that will help over time to relieve traffic on I-75 is our Southwest 80th Avenue,” Curry said. “Most people from here know that it’s an 11-mile stretch from State Road 200 that eventually will terminate in the new interchange at 49th Street. That’s where Buc-ee’s is supposed to go, north of town.”

The other project announced on Tuesday for Sumter County will reconstruct and expand U.S. 301 from County Road 470 to Florida’s Turnpike. Spanning from Sumterville to Wildwood, the road will be realigned around Coleman to avoid impacting the city’s downtown area.

The state will fund $26 million through Moving Florida Forward for the U.S. 301 project and construction will start in fall of 2025. The total cost of the project is $150 million. FDOT estimates that the project will take two to three years to complete, Lane said.

Moving Florida Forward has been funded $4 billion from the state’s general revenue surplus fund for a total of 20 infrastructure projects throughout the state to relieve congestion and improve Florida’s transportation network amid massive growth. FDOT’s total budget for the next five years will total over $68 billion, according to FDOT.

FDOT District 5 Secretary John Tyler credited the state’s dedication to improving infrastructure for the ability to expedite projects such as these and thanked local partners for their commitment and trust.

“The 31 miles of new auxiliary lanes will be a positive step towards improving mobility and safety on Interstate 75 through Marion and Sumter counties,” Tyler said. “Our whole team is dedicated and committed to delivering these projects to keep ‘Moving Florida Forward.’”

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