Construction of new wildlife underpass underway on I-4

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Millions of drivers use Florida highways to make their way across the Sunshine State.

In an effort to protect Florida wildlife, the Florida Department of Transportation is building a new underpass in Polk County.

DOT and the Florida Wildlife Corridor are working together to continue watching out for bears, deer, panthers and many other animals that call Florida home.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

They are building a wildlife underpass that will reconnect the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area, which is part of the 18-million-acre Florida Wildlife Corridor.

The construction is happening on Interstate 4 near the State Road 557 interchange in Polk County.

Read: Astronomers say up to 1,000 shooting stars per hour possible in tonight’s meteor shower

“They’re putting this 61-foot-wide underpass that goes under i-4 and reconnecting habitat that has been fragmented for 50 years,” said Jason Lauritsen from Florida Wildlife Corridor. “This will allow animals to follow their natural migration process. The underpass will have 10-foot-high fencing that will guide the wildlife toward the underpass and away from the interstate.”

Similar wildlife underpasses were built a few years back between Orlando and Daytona Beach during the I-4 reconstruction. FDOT recently celebrated the opening of the Wekiva wildlife crossing.

Read: ‘We made it’: Passengers return to Port Canaveral after cruise ship catches fire

“We’ll get safer highways and keep the wildlife off the roads,” Lauritsen added.

The project will also have a canal connecting the wetlands.

Read: Models show Eastern Pacific hurricane could redevelop in Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean this week

Construction is expected to wrap up by the end of next year.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.