Florida I-4 Wildlife Crossing Need, Design, & Construction update
Nicole Monies, Florida Department of Transportation
Florida is one of the fastest growing areas in the United States gaining 900 new residents each day. Much of this growth has occurred along the Interstate 4 (I-4) corridor which includes the urban centers of Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach. Due to rapid development and associated habitat fragmentation adjacent to I-4, identifying potential locations for wildlife crossings and protecting remaining habitat connections between south and north Florida is critical.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) uses several criteria in the decision-making process to determine whether to expend public funds on a wildlife crossing structure. Among the criteria considered in the process are location suitability, wildlife-vehicle collisions, wildlife telemetry data, adjacent protected conservation lands, crossing design, availability of right of way, roadway geometry, future road improvements, and cost.
FDOT utilized these criteria to determine the best location of the new wildlife crossing currently under construction that will allow animals to cross under I-4 via parallel twin bridges with 8-foot vertical clearance will be provided to span a hydrologic channel lined with dry shelves, adjacent culvert, and second culvert under SR 557 that serves as a water and wildlife crossing.
FDOT placed motion activated trail cameras on both sides of I-4 to better understand the type and abundance of wildlife in the vicinity of potential crossing locations. The area adjacent to I-4 has been a challenge to evaluate for siting wildlife crossings with sufficient connecting habitat corridors and ensuring that conservation lands exist or are secured adjacent to a proposed wildlife crossing. At this location, FDOT is re-connecting two regions of the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area which was bisected by the construction of Interstate 4.
An update on the progress of the construction and upcoming schedule milestones will be provided. Traffic will be shifted onto the new lanes of wildlife crossing early in 2023. The old pavement will be then removed from the median in the spring and the wildlife fencing will installed. The project is slated to be completed the Summer of 2023, near the time of this presentation. Photos of the progression of the construction will be presented.
This project has garnished favorable local media attention and the public is invested. FDOT is excited to share it’s progress from concept to near completion.