If you’ve driven the I4 freeway recently then you know that traffic along the tourist corridor (basically from Davenport to Sand Lake Road) can be miserable at times. There is a long term plan to fix this from Florida’s department of transportation – it’s the second phase of the I4 Ultimate project. But some sacrifices will have to be made to get from here to there. This includes closing the Crossroads shopping center that sits just outside of Walt Disney World.
Occupants of the 29-acre complex include: Gooding’s supermarket, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, Perkins, Tom & Chee, Pizzeria Uno, Red Lobster, Fuddruckers, On the Border, and Chevy’s plus many more. They now have to put plans into place to close or relocate before construction begins.
The first phase of the I4 Ultimate will add express toll lanes from Kirkman Road (at Universal Orlando Resort) north through Altamonte Springs. The second phase, called Beyond I4 Ultimate, will expand the I4 from Kirkman road another 20 miles south (although in Florida they call it west). Crucially this expansion includes upgrades to overpasses, including the troubled 535-I4 interchange.
To fix that interchange, the Florida Department of Transportation will buy the land the Crossroads of Lake Buena Vista shopping center currently sits on to use it for an additional off-ramp and drainage ponds.
The I4-535 interchange is a big problem because the freeway goes from 5 lanes down to just 3 to cross the 535. It’s also a choke point for merging to get on and off the freeway. Adding more lanes and more efficient on- and off-ramps will be a big help.
Although the planning phase is still underway, work is expected to begin in the next 2 years. That means Crossroads will have to close in about 18 months to allow for time to clear the property for construction. The developer will get a big payoff and tenants will get some small relocation assistance.
Disney once owned the land under Crossroads, but later sold to a developer. You have to think that Disney and other stores at Disney Springs will be happy to see the competition to their locations go. Since this project has been on the books since 2016, it might have even been a selling point to open shop at Disney Springs.
We’re sad to lose this convenient option for meals for our visits to Walt Disney World. We hope employees of Crossroads stores and restaurants are able to find spots in other locations, but it could mean the loss of jobs for hundreds of workers.