Located wholly within the Sunshine State, Interstate 4 comprises a southwest to northeast route across the Florida peninsula. The freeway connects the metropolitan areas of Tampa-St. Petersburg, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Orlando and Daytona Beach. With the ever expanding population and development in the state, I-4 is a major transportation corridor that was inadequate at its original four lanes. Various construction programs completed between the mid 1990s and 2008 improved the capacity of the route between Tampa and Orlando, with six-lane expansion through Volusia County finished in spring 2017.
The entire length of Interstate 4 doubles as State Road 400. SR 400 extends east as a stand alone route from the freeway end at I-95 to U.S. 1 along the Daytona Beach and South Daytona city line. The XPress 400 toll plan related to the SR 400 numbering of I-4.
Through Orange and Seminole Counties along with the city of Orlando, a variety of improvements were proposed, most of which were controversial. In October 2003, the “Mobility 20/20” tax plan proposed an expanded Interstate 4 through the metropolitan area, but that was rejected by voters. One of the reasons cited for the failure of this tax was opposition to toll lanes on I-4. Nevertheless, the idea returned in March 2005.
During that time, officials proposed a managed lanes concept that is similar to the reversible and high occupancy vehicle lane concept found in Southern California, such as California 91 (Riverside Freeway) and Interstate 15 (Escondido Freeway). These highways feature managed lanes in the median that can be adjusted to allow for more traffic in either direction. High occupancy vehicles use the lanes for free, while single occupancy vehicles are charged an electronic toll. Named the XPress 400 and outlined along I-4 from SR 435 (Kirkman Road) to SR 434, the toll lanes were estimated to cost over $1.5 billion to complete in 2005. Under the management of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, the project proposed constructing new toll lanes in the median, adding a continuous fourth lane in both directions, straightening out some sections of the freeway, and redesigning interchanges. Completion was envisioned by 2013.1
The Trans4mation project resulted in some improvements to area interchanges, such as the building of a new flyover from I-4 west to John Young Parkway and completion of Phase 1 of the I-4 and SR 408 (East West Expressway) interchange upgrade. The remainder of work is now apart of the I-4 Ultimate Project. The current initiative focuses on 21 miles of Interstate 4, from south of SR 435 (Kirkman Road) in Orange County to north of SR 434 in Seminole County. The $2.3-billion project kicked off in early 2015 and runs through early 2021. Work rebuilds 15 interchanges, replaces 75 bridges and adds four Express Lanes along the median of I-4.
Interstate 4 parallels U.S. 92 eastward from Tampa to Lakeland, with the two running close by through Mango and Plant City. Where I-4 shifts northeast, U.S. 92 stays east, leaving the freeway for Auburndale, Winter Haven and Haines City. U.S. 92 turns north at Haines City along an overlap with U.S. 17 to Kissimmee, but staying somewhat distant from I-4. U.S. 441 combines with the pair from Kissimmee through Orlando along Orange Blossom Trail, which converges with the I-4 corridor southwest of Downtown Orlando.
U.S. 441 branches northwest to Apopka at the U.S. 17 & 92 eastern turn onto Colonial Drive ahead of I-4. The pair extend northward to Maitland, Casselberry and Lake Mary to cross paths with I-4 again at Sanford. U.S. 17 parts ways with U.S. 92 and the I-4 vicinity at DeLand for Palatka while U.S. 92 turns east through Tomoka Wildlife Management Area. Two wye interchanges and a connector join I-4 and U.S. 92 to the west of their respective interchanges with I-95 at Daytona Beach.
As originally planned, Interstate 4 continued southwest on what is now Interstate 275 from its western terminus across the Howard Frankland Bridge into St. Petersburg. Some plans extended Interstate 4 further west from Downtown St. Pete to the Gulf of Mexico, but these plans never came to fruition.
The extension of Interstate 75 south to Fort Myers and Naples in 1971 replaced Interstate 4 west from the Downtown Interchange in Tampa to Pinellas County. The 1971 General Drafting Map of Florida shows the Howard Frankland Bridge co-signed as Interstate 4 and Interstate 75; by 1973, the bridge was shown as Interstate 275, with Interstate 75 rerouted onto a new alignment east of Tampa.
The following are significant milestones in the history of Interstate 4:2
- 1959 – Interstate 4 opened from Plant City to Lakeland (first segment to open). Interstate 4 under construction (1) from Tampa to Plant City and (2) on the Howard Frankland Bridge (which was then part of Interstate 4)
- 1960 – Interstate 4 opened along (1) the Howard Frankland Bridge, (2) from East Tampa east to Lakeland, and (3) from Lake Monroe to near Lake Helen. Proposed (as yet unconstructed) sections that year on Interstate 4 included those in St. Petersburg, in Tampa, from Lakeland to Orlando, and from Lake Helen to Tiger Bay State Forest.
- 1961 – Interstate 4 opened from Lakeland to Orlando and under construction from Lake Helen east to Daytona Beach. Sections still unconstructed and proposed included segments in St. Petersburg, in Tampa, and from Orlando to Sanford.
- 1963 – The only section of Interstate 4 in Tampa that had still not yet built was between Armenia and 22nd Street.
- 1963 – In Orlando, Interstate 4 was complete up to Robinson Street and was labeled “Orlando Expressway.”
- 1969 – Interstate 75 extended south, sharing an alignment with Interstate 4 from Tampa southwest to St. Petersburg.
- 1971 – Beginning of Interstate 4 truncated to the Downtown Interchange with Interstate 75 (renumbered Interstate 275 in 1973) in Tampa. Interstate 4 now complete from Interstate 275 in Tampa to Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach.