The last piece of Central Florida’s portion of the Wekiva Parkway is ready to go to construction with the award Wednesday by the Central Florida Expressway Authority of a $38.6 million contract to the Superior Construction Co.

Superior gets to build the fifth and final leg of road that is the responsibility of the expressway authority in what is a much bigger 25-mile, $1.6 billion tolled expressway wrapping around greater Orlando’s northwest corner. The Wekiva Parkway is being jointly built with the Florida Department of Transportation.

The expressway authority the southern five legs covering 10 miles, with construction costing $270 million, and expects its section of expressway to be open to traffic from Apopka into Lake County by 2018. FDOT is responsible for the eastern 10 segments for a road.

FDOT has a about three miles open from Mount Plymouth Road to State Road 46 just east Camp Challenge Road. That means by early 2018 drivers can go from S.R. 429 to S.R. 46.

When it’s all complete, the Wekiva Parkway would carry traffic from State Road 429 in Apopka to I-4 in Sanford, completing a sort-of expressway loop around Orlando.

Overall, the expressway authority is spending about $526 million on the parkway, and FDOT, $1.1 billion.

The latest construction contract award, made Wednesday by the CFX authority board, will build the leg running a couple of miles from  Kelly Park Road in Apopka to Mount Plymouth Road near Plymouth. Construction is expected to start in August and be completed in January 2018.

The Wekiva has been in the thinking, planning and construction phases for 30 years. It is the product of many years of negotiations to balance expectations that the highway is desperately needed for the region’s burgeoning growth, with concerns for its potential environmental impacts on the highly-sensitive Wekiva River region. Among compromises: all of the parkway has enhanced decor; parts of the FDOT portion of the highway will be elevated for miles at a stretch; and the number of interchanges was significantly reduced from earlier visions.

On the other hand, the Wekiva Parkway would stop short of creating a pure loop around the city, just as the southwestern portion of the region’s expressway loop system stopped short. Where the Wekiva Parkway is to connect to I-4 will be about a mile from where the northeast portion, State Road 417, already connects. Likewise, on the south end, where the southwest portion, known as State Road 429, connects with I-4 is about a mile from where the southeast portion, part of S.R. 417, connects.

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