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Transportation Infrastructure Improvements in Southwest Florida

A U.S. Airways jet passes in front of the air traffic control tower at Southwest Florida International Airport.

According the Florida Chamber, Florida is ranked #1 in transportation infrastructure in the United States and no state has invested more capital towards this critical resource than Florida. Southwest Florida’s infrastructure is improving to accommodate rapid growth and is perfectly positioned to have your business succeed in our global market. Our airports are adding capacity for more passenger flights, highways are being widened to make shipping freight more safe and efficient between main hubs like Miami, Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando as our sea ports are getting deeper to compete globally.

Highways

Interstate 75 (I-75) is one of the nation’s most significant interstate corridors, connecting south Florida through the United States to Canada. To accommodate increasing freight, residential and tourist traffic, roadwork continues on I-75 where the Caloosahatchee River Bridge is being widened in Lee County. The project entails constructing two new middle spans running from the north to the south banks of the river. The project is estimated to be completed late 2015.  In addition, a four-mile stretch of I-75 in Collier County between mile markers 101 and 105 will be widened to six lanes by early 2017.

Larger Ports, More Freight

Florida is home to 15 deep-water seaports that are only getting deeper. The Port of Miami has been dredged to accommodate larger ships due to the widening of the Panama Canal and is big ship ready.

“The increase in freight is such that there’s plenty of growth for everyone,” says Jim Walker, Director of Navigation Policy for the American Association of Port Authorities. “The Florida ports are in a good location and with the Panama Canal expansion, they are well-positioned for growth.”

Although there are no large ports in Southwest Florida, the increased shipping into the Port of Miami and Port Everglades will impact the freight traffic flowing through Clewiston, Moore Haven, Port Charlotte, Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. According to Steve Cernak, Director of Port Everglades, they expect to double its cargo capacity by 2020, mostly from north-south routes to Latin America. More Port Everglades activity will help Southwest Florida grow and create more jobs.

Airports

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is playing a big role in the growth of Southwest Florida. Earlier this year, Interstate 75 expanded to directly connect with the airport. This is just one element of an ongoing growth plan for RSW. The Lee County Port Authority has a 20-year master plan with proposed upgrades that are in various stages of development. The plan includes a $300 million second runway and a new $50 million air traffic control tower.

“The direct connection between I-75 and the airport is another valuable economic driver because it keeps people and freight moving smoothly,” says Eric Berglund, President of the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance.

As more people choose Southwest Florida as their permanent or seasonal home, RSW is a critical asset to the transportation infrastructure.  It serves as our region’s first impression upon arrival and its efficiency and safety is relied upon by millions of passengers. RSW is in close proximity to Florida Gulf Coast University and Gulf Coast Town Center in the heart of Lee County’s newest entertainment corridor. We expect to see more development in this area in the future.

Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) is conveniently located close to I-75 and US 41 on the Southwest coast of Florida halfway between Sarasota to the north, and Ft. Myers to the south. Because of the airport’s location and size, the airport has attracted several low cost carriers.

PGD is just finishing a major expansion, including a new terminal about three times the size of the old one, designed to handle at least 1.2 million passengers’ comings and goings each year. That’s twice the expected 628,075 from 2014 and more than three times the number in 2010.

Regional Training Center

Glades and Hendry County are also working towards an infrastructure change. These two counties have plans to diversify their economy beyond agriculture and focus more on manufacturing and logistics. Glades County in particular has a regional training center under construction, scheduled to be completed in September 2015, as well as two proposed industrial parks. The regional training center will house a regional emergency operations center, have an onsite wellness center and produce more skilled labor in areas such as:

      • Caterpillar engines
      • Welding
      • Truck driving academy

These efforts are creating hundreds of sustainable jobs and still counting. Both counties are spotlighting their strengths and promoting their central locations.

Transportation Enhancements Position Southwest Florida for Growth

We can see it on the highway, in the stores and on the news – Southwest Florida is growing. We are one of the fastest growing areas in the state as well as the country. Businesses are expanding and/or relocating to Southwest Florida. The transportation infrastructure is changing to accommodate this expansion. Exciting things are happening in Southwest Florida and we can attribute them to a great workforce, beautiful location and space for growth. Contact the Economic Development Alliance today for more information about these projects and incentives available to businesses for growth in this region.