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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thanks to the I-4 Ultimate project, it will soon be a lot safer to walk to Universal Orlando

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 11:19 AM

click to enlarge IMAGE VIA FDOT
  • Image via FDOT
With more than 700 daily users, the crosswalks at the Kirkman Road and Major Boulevard intersection are some of the most used in all of Central Florida.

As part of the I-4 Ultimate project, a new elevated pedestrian pathway at this busy intersection is currently under construction. The new 185-feet long prefabricated pedestrian bridge, which was recently put in place, is designed to help make the 9-lane crossing safer for both pedestrians and drivers alike.

Weighing a whopping 155,000-pounds, the new bridge structure is already dramatically changing the look of the area despite still being months away from officially opening.

click to enlarge 20181112_105905.jpg
The new bridge will connect Universal Orlando to the area just across Kirkman where the DoubleTree and a TGI Fridays have been for years. New investment, including a massive Lexus dealership visible from I-4, has caused the area (which previously housed low budget flea market, including the infamous Backstreet Market where the Backstreet Boys found inspiration for their name), and tourism support offices to become more relevant for many visitors. Recently a slew of new hotels have sprung up in the area, spurred on in part a new fly-over that connects Major Boulevard to North I-Drive. The fly-over will eventually be a full intersection with ramps directly connecting to the I-4 toll lanes. Now with the outlet malls easily within walking distance, many visitors are opting to walk more throughout the area.

The pedestrian bridge is similar to ones that Reedy Creek installed in the Disney Springs area, but unlike those, this one will eventually get an artistic skin that will cover much of the industrial look of the steel-truss bridge structure.

click image IMAGE VIA FDOT
  • Image via FDOT
While the bridge itself is financed as part of the $2.3 billion I-4 Ultimate project, the artistic flare is thanks to Tax Increment Finance funding. The City of Orlando worked with Universal Studios to develop a welcoming bridge that serves as a gateway to the tourism district.

Early designs drew heavily from Universal’s theme, including one that looked like a movie reel unwinding, eventually, though all parties agreed on a more neutral design that has large blue ‘sails’ that wrap around the bridge structure. An upgraded lighting package will make the bridge even more impressive looking at nighttime while also providing ample lighting for visitors who may be using it late at night after the parks and clubs at Universal Orlando close.

click to enlarge The ramps for the pedestrian bridge now under construction.
  • The ramps for the pedestrian bridge now under construction.
Long, gradual 10-foot wide ramps mean that bridge is accessible to those in wheelchairs or those with strollers. Pedestrian connections nearby, including numerous sidewalks, will also be enhanced in an effort to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

With pedestrians removed from the 140-feet wide intersection, signaling, and with it, traffic flow should also be improved.

The Kirkman Road-Major Boulevard pedestrian sky-bridge is scheduled to open in January.

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