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In 2018, Central Florida was ranked first in the nation for job growth, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, Forbes magazine ranked the metro Orlando region No. 1 to invest in a home with an estimated 84,000 building permits issued in Orange County valued at $2.3 billion. Orange County also earned the highest AAA credit rating from Moody's Investors Service, recognizing its fiscal reliability and continued quality-of-life enhancements.
We are truly a community in the midst of transformation. From our exploding presence in the global modeling, simulation and training marketplace, to Central Florida’s growing reputation as a hub of culture, sports, recreation, higher learning, and innovation, the future of Orange County is bright. Perhaps nowhere is transformation more visible than within our transportation networks and infrastructure.
Progress continues with SunRail, Central Florida’s new commuter rail system which will connect DeLand in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County when it is fully completed in 2016. The excitement over SunRail is building throughout Central Florida, and passenger service is slated to begin this year. Phase 1, which spans 32 miles and comprises 12 stations, is currently under construction and will connect DeBary with Sand Lake Road, near the Orlando International Airport. Phase 2 begins construction in summer 2014 and will extend the route north to DeLand and south into Poinciana.
Mayor Jacobs joined county and state leaders this past summer in the kick-off event for the Wekiva Parkway, which will complete the beltway around Central Florida and will help relieve congestion on US Highway 441 and State Road 46. The completion of the 25-mile toll road will make travel easier and more convenient through Lake, Orange, and Seminole counties. From her earliest days on the Wekiva River Basin Commission and since being elected Mayor of Orange County, the Wekiva Parkway remains one of her greatest priorities. In addition to the thousands of jobs created and the long-term economic impact, this highway project will benefit the lives of thousands of Floridians and will improve our state's opportunities for smart-managed growth.
The Wekiva Parkway is a direct result of insightful environmental guidance and unwavering local and statewide leadership. The tremendous partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, and our neighboring counties of Lake and Seminole, stand as testimony to how our region can bring monumental infrastructure projects to Central Florida by working together.
Our regional efforts continue on the reconstruction of Interstate 4 (I-4) through Orange County and surrounding regions. I-4 provides a crucial link between Tampa, on the west coast, and Daytona Beach, on the east, and serves one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
Construction costs are projected at approximately $2 billion and include the reconstruction of 21 miles of I-4 from west of Kirkman Road in Orange County to east of State Road 434 in Seminole County, with 56 new bridges, 68 bridge replacements, and 15 major interchanges reconstructed. The I-4 Ultimate Project adds four tolled express lanes to I-4 while maintaining the existing free general use lanes, providing a choice to motorists. Construction is expected to begin in early 2015.
All Aboard Florida, the express intercity passenger rail, is the only private rail development in the country. By December 2015, this passenger rail will connect the hub cities of Orlando and Miami. And, when All Aboard Florida connects to SunRail, we will have seamless a connection providing business and leisure passengers a new convenient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to travel between South Florida and Central Florida.
Additional All Aboard Florida stations are proposed in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and the Orlando International Airport, with passenger service projected to begin in 2016.