9 Investigates: More traffic, less money challenges transportation department



CENTRAL FLORIDA - Holidays make for busy times on area roadways, and according to a new study, every day will soon be just as packed as a holiday on two major central Florida roadways.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, Interstate 95 from Palm Beach to Melbourne and Interstate 4 from Orlando to Tampa will soon be two of the busiest roadways in the United States, with I-95 reaching capacity in less than seven years.

"We are trying to do some things about capacity issues," said Steve Olson of the Florida Department of Transportation. "(We're) looking at trends in the future. Traffic is only going to grow."

The FDOT is in the process of expanding I-95 from Indian River County, but said the main problem along the coast is that there are too few north-south roads and many commuters and local traffic use the interstate as their primary way to get around.

"You've got long-haul traffic mixing it up with the local traffic that is just going a couple of exits," said Olson.

Further to the west, I-4 is poised to receive express toll lanes to ease the congestion, however, those lanes will not extend all the way from Orlando to Tampa, and while traffic drops off as drivers exit the metro Orlando area, it builds again approaching Tampa.

The report comes at a time of shrinking budgets and expanding demand for the FDOT. The department has seen the cost of transportation increase 40 percent since 2000 while spending on transportation has decreased 14 percent in that same time.