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Posted: June 29, 2017
Last modified: June 29, 2017

I-4 Ultimate crews dug deep through the dirt, not for roadway construction, but rather to plant the project’s first tree.

The planting of the 11-foot-tall tree and its 20 identical neighbors signified the beginning of the carefully planned and gradual landscaping efforts along the 21-mile project limits.

The trees were planted in late May on the Caravan Court side of the new Grand National Drive overpass near the Interstate 4 (I-4)/Kirkman Road (State Road 435) interchange. Crews planted trees here first because the overpass construction is slated to complete soon, and the roadway will carry motorists as soon as this fall.

More than $28 million of the I-4 Ultimate project’s budget will be spent on planting about 14,500 canopy and flowering trees, 4,400 palms, 10,625 buffer shrubs and 60,200 smaller shrubs and groundcovers. Additionally, nearly one million square feet of irrigation will be installed to maintain the landscape.

Brett Nein, ASLA, the principal landscape architect with Jacobs, is excited about the opportunity to highlight the Sunshine State’s natural beauty by using native and non-invasive Florida-friendly plants.

“These plants are best adapted to local climate conditions and soils,” Nein said. “In turn, that limits the routine maintenance required and it increases the chances of survival to a well-established and mature growth.”

There are some unique considerations when designing and implementing the project’s landscaping, given its scope and size.

“If the entire project had to be installed at one time, there would not be enough materials available in the state with the proper size and species to complete the task,” Nein said. “There’s a process where several nurseries and growers are preparing plants for delivery at prescribed heights and quantities well in advance corresponding with the project phasing.”

The thematic design will feel and look consistent throughout the corridor. The interchanges may have a varying level of landscaping features depending on the area available. In each case, the plant life will be blended with the waterside and drainage areas and the bridge and lighting aesthetics features to create the most functional and visually appealing landscape.

As the project continues and finishes in 2021, the plants — much like the ones recently planted — will grow to become just as a much part of the fabric of Central Florida as the new interstate itself.

For additional information on I-4 Ultimate landscaping and natural beautification efforts, visit fdot.tips/I4Lndscp.