Central Florida equipment crew constructing proposed drainage improvements. Source: FDOT
The Florida Department of Transportation is using $16 million in Recovery Act funds to finish the long-awaited reconstruction of the 18-mile hurricane evacuation route from Key Largo to Florida City.
The funds are underwriting work on a 3-mile segment of U.S. Route 1. The 70-year-old stretch of highway has a long history of accidents that include head-on collisions. The shoulder lanes northbound are being widened to increase emergency evacuation capacity and a median barrier is being added. When completed the highway will also include a one-mile passing lane and the driving lanes will be expanded to 12-feet.
In order to prevent flooding during a hurricane, drainage pipes are being laid under the road pavement to carry run-off.
The FDOT said that the entire project also includes efforts to accommodate and protect area wetlands and endangered wildlife. An under-the-road culvert is being constructed for wildlife to cross from one side of U.S. 1 to the other, and fences are being installed to prevent wildlife from wandering onto the road itself.
The FDOT has been working on the aging evacuation route in phases since 2005 and has completed approximately 10 miles. But the agency lacked funds to complete the 8 remaining miles.
State and local budgets covered reconstruction of 5 miles but only $3.1 million was available for the last 3 miles, which was expected to cost $19.1 million. State officials said that if it were not for the $16 million of Recovery funding, the final 3-mile segment may have been delayed until 2015.
All work is now estimated to be completed by summer 2011.
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