By Chris Fish
BREVARD - Drivers in North Brevard County using Interstate-95 may experience delays for the next three years, but the economic impact of the construction may make the slight delay worth it.
Brevard County District One Commissioner Robin Fisher, the North Brevard Economic Development Zone and the Space Coast Infrastructure Agency, with the Florida Department of Transportation, officially announced the beginning of construction for an I-95-widening project on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the northbound visitors' rest area in Titusville.
The $118.3 million project is expected to last 1,330 days and will widen the roadway from four to six lanes for nearly 30 miles between Brevard and Volusia Counties.
Steve Olson, Florida Department of Transportation's public information manager, said the project coincides with widening projects happening throughout Brevard, including areas from Malabar to the Indian River, and has been in the works since 2005.
Once this project is complete, Mr. Olson said all of I-95 in Brevard County will be six lanes.
Commissioner Fisher said widening the interstate will both provide jobs and economic accessibility for the county.
"Highway accessibility is a top priority for economic development, tourism, community mobility and emergency management," Commissioner Fisher said in an email. "It is important to the economic future of North Brevard that the best possible vehicular access is available to our community."
Bonnie King, director of sales for the Space Coast Office of Tourism, said she expects the new lanes to allow accessibility for drivers to stop at a new visitors' center that begins construction in 2013, which will be the first rest stop when drivers enter Brevard County.
"No. 1, we want an ease of traffic," she said. "A lot of cars come down I-95, which is why we are building a visitors' center. If we can just get a fraction of those people to stop and get information, more visitors will see what Brevard County offers."
During the construction, Commissioner Fisher said drivers may experience temporary delays.
The Space Coast Infrastructure Agency will use bonds to finance the $118.3 million project, Commissioner Fisher added. The FDOT will commit future transportation funds to pay off the financing, as the Space Coast Infrastructure Agency is not responsible for the bond payments.
Commissioner Fisher also said the widening of the road will provide access to numerous areas in development along the interstate, including Exploration Park, a new high-tech research and office park being developed in partnership with Space Florida, and a new national cemetery located in Scottsmoor.
"Exploration Park is poised to become the economic engine of North Brevard," Commissioner Fisher said. "As the cemetery will service the entire central east coast of Florida, it will be imperative that funeral corteges have adequate and direct access to North Brevard."