Governor awards $4 million for new I-75 interchange in Ocala
Third Buc-ee's in Florida, and first on I-75, to be built at the interchange location.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tosses Beaver Nuggets from Buc-ee’s to people in the crowd as he talks about the future construction of a new Buc-ee’s and the new, planned Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-75 and Northwest 49th Street in Ocala during a press conference in the auditorium at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, April 7, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
The Southeastern Livestock Pavilion was abuzz on Friday for a press conference during which Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he was giving $4 million for a new I-75 interchange in Ocala and that the third Buc-ee’s location in the state would be built there. The governor even tossed out bags of Buc-ee’s beaver nuggets, which are a caramel coated corn pop snack, at the end of the event.
The $4 million was awarded to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to add a new interchange at I-75 and Northwest 49th Street in Marion County.
The new intersection will be a “diverging diamond” style, which will facilitate traffic movement and access to the nearby industrial and commercial developments and the World Equestrian Center.
The over-sized State of Florida check was noted with the words “job growth grant fund” and was presented to several officials, including Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn.
Calling Florida a “pro-business state” Buc-ee’s founder and CEO Arch “Beaver” Aplin said I-75 is a “great location” and “our eyes were opened to the opportunities” here. Aplin said the governor “would like to do it faster” than the expected opening date, which Guinn said had a target date of “late 2025.”
There are 47 Buc-ee’s locations, including two in Florida on Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach and St. Augustine. The Ocala site will be the first I-75 site in Florida. The new Buc-ee’s is expected to include an 80,000-square-foot travel center and have 120 fuel pumps and 720 parking spaces.
FDOT’s infrastructure project is expected to have an economic impact of $21 million and create 1,500 new jobs. The new interchange will further establish the city of Ocala as a strategic Central Florida hub for freight-related traﬃc, noted a press release later in the day from the governor’s office.
During the press conference, Guinn called the new interchange and incoming Buc-ee’s “awesome” and said the travel center should employ about 225 people.
According to the FDOT website cflroads.com, the “interchange will improve interstate and regional mobility within Marion County, accommodate future traffic growth and provide relief to existing surrounding interchanges.” The site puts the design cost at $4.9 million; right of way cost at $20 million and construction cost at $59.3 million. According to the FDOT, the divergent diamond design can significantly reduce traffic crashes.
Congresswoman Kat Cammack, serving Florida’s Third Congressional District, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Suwannee and Union counties, said the interchange and accompanying business is “awesome and incredible.”
FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue and Laura DiBella, CEO of Enterprise Florida, also spoke at the press conference.
The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state, according to the news release. For more information, visit FloridaJobs.org/JobGrowth.