I-4 re­make to claim iconic ramp from 1960s

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Spear

A visual piece of Or­lando high­way his­tory is go­ing away for the In­ter­state 4 re­make.

Early Mon­day, con­struc­tion work­ers will close the ramp that rises from the right lane of west­bound Colo­nial Drive and curls up and around to merge onto west­bound I-4.

To get to the in­ter­state, mo­torists headed west on Colo­nial will have to make a left turn onto Hughey Av­enue, where they will find a new ramp to I-4 west.

A half-cen­tury old, the cir­cu­lar, ris­ing ramp has long been one of the more strik­ing fea­tures of the

in­ter­state through the core of Or­lando.

“If you look at the pho­tos we have of those loop ramps, Or­lando was a smaller, sleepy city com­pared to to­day,” state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion spokesman Steve Ol­son said of early 1960s im­ages. “Those loop ramps were there as part of the orig­i­nal I-4.”

The loop ramp at the north­west cor­ner of Colo­nial and I-4 was mir­rored by a sim­i­lar loop at the south­east cor­ner of the in­ter­sec­tion.

That south­east ramp is now gone, re­moved for con­struc­tion. But the one at the north­west cor­ner was the more eye-catch­ing of the two.

Car­ry­ing more than 7,600 cars a day, it rises from the ground, be­com­ing a bridge over the south end of Lake Con­cord.

The bridge por­tion is held up by a snag­gle of square, con­crete piers. The ad­join­ing area is scruffy and over­grown. A refuge for home­less peo­ple is tucked be­neath the bridge.

All of that is to be res­culpted by the mas­sive con­struc­tion pro­ject, called I-4 Ul­ti­mate, slated for com­ple­tion in 2021.

“A lot of the work up this point has been un­der­ground, drainage, util­ity re­lo­ca­tion, bridge-sup­port struc­tures,” said con­struc­tion spokesman David Parks.

“Now that a lot of that be­low-ground work is com­plete, we are able to see changes a lot more dra­mat­i­cally,” Park said. “We are start­ing to put traf­fic on per­ma­nent con­fig­u­ra­tions.”

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