Major Turnpike Construction Projects Greet Florida’s Seasonal Visitors

Orlando and Fort Lauderdale Interchanges Undergoing Major Overhauls As Tourist Season Welcomes First Travelers

This year’s increase in seasonal tourism traffic may be accompanied by an increase in driver frustration as a pair of major road reconstruction projects impact upon turnpike interchanges in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. The Florida Department of Transportation has been overhauling the I-595 corridor through Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Plantation and Sunrise since approximately November 2010. The project includes a complete reworking of the interchange with Florida’s Turnpike, with the bulk of construction work scheduled to be completed by March 2014, although work is currently ahead of schedule, according to a project construction chart.

Meanwhile, lane additions and other construction has just begun in Orlando, where Florida’s Turnpike meets with I-4, just south of the East-West Expressway. The $10.2-million project at the Turnpike I-4 interchange began September 12, and it will not be completed until the fall of 2014, although a more specific date has not been provided.

Drivers making their way through Orlando or traveling there as a destination will find exit and entrance ramps to I-4 being widened and realigned to handle more capacity. The construction effort also seeks to help increase capacity for truckers who make use of the interchange to access the Turkey Lake Service Plaza.

“The realignment of the southbound exit ramp improves traffic flow on the connector road to the Tandem Truck Stagin Lot located behind the northbound toll plaza building,” a DOT news release read. “The project includes an additional heavy truck turnaround at the south end of the Turkey Lake Service Plaza and new signage.”

I-595 construction near Florida's Turnpike
Construction of the Florida’s Turnpike I-595 Interchange in the Fort Lauderdale-Davie area is within months of completion. Additional constructions delays may affect seasonal travelers, nonetheless.

While the spate of lane closures and roadway detours is just beginning for Orlando, they are nearly completed for Fort Lauderdale’s Turnpike I-595 interchange. Overnight lane closures on the Turnpike, between I-595 and Sunrise Boulevard, were expected to be completed by the end of the week, this week. Ramp closures from State Road 84 and I-595 to the Turnpike were also expected to persist for a few more overnight hours, wrapping by September 27, according to a special website set up by Florida DOT to provide construction updates.

Meanwhile, toll lanes continue to be closed on an intermittent basis in Miami-Dade County, where the all-electronic tolling booths are being built to replace the once-staffed toll collection booths. The closure of lanes chokes the traffic flow into the Golden Glades Interchange, which connects the Florida’s Turnpike with I-95 and the Palmetto Expressway (SR 826). The interchange also allows drivers to exit to U.S. 441 and NE 167th Street in North Miami Beach.

The toll lane closures are expected to end by January 2014, around the start of peak seasonal tourism in Florida, but the short term outlook is one of slow traffic going into the Golden Glades. Only four toll lanes are currently open for northbound traffic leaving Miami, and five lanes are currently opened for southbound traffic making its way from Broward County into Miami-Dade.

The widening of the Turnpike Extension in Miami-Dade County is also now underway, having broken ground in August 2013. The southern stretch of the Homestead Extension of the Turnpike will be widened to a minimum of six travel lanes in some areas, and as many as 10 travel lanes in other segments. The construction will affect the areas through Goulds and Cutler Ridge, from around SW 216th Street, north to Eureka Drive, which is also SW 184th Street.

The project, which is expected to cost about $41-million, will take about three years to complete.

Gas Prices Tumble As Autumn Officially Begins

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Gas prices have taken a tumble in recent days as the fall driving season sets in and concerns about the situation in Syria have been met with potential détente, and further supplanted by worries about a possible government shutdown October 1. The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas fell by more than a nickel during the past week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA’s weekly report shows the biggest drop in gas prices came in the Central and Lower Atlantic states, where prices were down by about 8¢ per gallon. The lowest price declines were found on the West Coast, where the average cost of a gallon of gas was flat. In some areas, the cost of gas did edge downward about a penny.

For truckers and drivers of other diesel cars, the price of fuel was also down. The average price of diesel fuel was off by about 3¢ per gallon during the past week, although prices in the Rocky Mountain region were up slightly. Drivers across the West Coast enjoyed a bigger price break, with diesel prices declining about 4¢ per gallon.

Gas prices explained
EIA’s monthly gas price breakdown shows how much is spent for crude, refining, advertising and taxes.

The reduction in tensions over Syria’s use of chemical weapons has helped futures markets recover from a spike in prices a few weeks ago, which contributed to investors’ fears about possible supply shortages. Additional worries about refinery capacity in Libya and Iraq have been assuaged by new evidence of rising oil supplies from those regions. Even so, oil futures for November delivery spiked late in the day Tuesday after weak trading through most of the day. However, futures prices were well short of their August highs, when the two month delivery price for Brent was up to about $117 per barrel. Currently, the price is about $108 per barrel.

U.S. crude oil, also known as West Texas Intermediate, has been falling for the past several sessions and could close below $100 within a week, if current declines persists. WTI peaked at the beginning of September, at $109.23 per barrel on September 6. WTI closed Tuesday at $103.37.



Summer Is Over, And Gas Prices Are Retreating

Gas price sign in Pompano Beach, Florida
The price of gas is falling again, but supply problems in Libya and the situation in Syria could still send prices higher again. This sign shows prices in Pompano Beach, Florida, on September 16.

Gas prices have begun their post-summer retreat, helped along by recently-reduced tensions in the Middle East, notably over the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas fell by four-cents during the past week, according to the latest survey of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The cost of driving fell much more across the Lower Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions, where the average price of gas dipped by twice the national average. Gas prices were also off by almost 9-cents per gallon for Midwestern drivers.

However, the current pricing trend was not the same for drivers across the West Coast and, particularly, motorists in California. In fact, West Coast gas prices were up more than a dime per gallon, largely due to a spike in prices in the Golden State. Minus the California gas price situation, West Coast fuel prices were still up by about two-cents per gallon.

Meanwhile, the cost of driving a rig has finally stabilized a bit, this after several weeks of pricing increases that made life for truckers more expensive. The price of a gallon of diesel fuel slipped by about a penny per gallon across nearly all regions. However, the Rocky Mountain states bore witness to exactly the opposite trend, where the price of a gallon of diesel is up by about a penny. In California, diesel prices were flat to slightly higher.

The EIA has released a statement during the past week which revealed a growing disparity between the price of crude oil and the Standard and Poor’s equity index. The EIA tracks the correlation between Brent Light Sweet Crude and the equity markets as a way to determine whether consumer prices are generally in line with supply and demand. According to the report, the fears of supply disruptions as a result of problems in Syria continued to weigh on the price of oil futures. Real supply problems in Libya are expected to grow through the end of September.

While the fears of a Syrian-caused oil-supply disruption have been assuaged in the wake of a new diplomatic agreement over Syrian chemical weapons, the Libyan oil supply problems are likely to weigh on oil futures prices, according to the EIA. That could drive prices back up toward the end of September, according to the report.

Meanwhile, overall gasoline prices continue to sit well below their 2012 levels. The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas, in the U.S., is about 33¢ below the levels at this time last year. Diesel prices are about 16¢ per gallon less that at this time in 2012.



As Summer Drivers Leave The Road, Gas Prices Dip

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The price of gas took a moment to retreat from late summer highs during the past week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA’s weekly gas price survey shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas dropped by about two cents per gallon, although bigger price declines were enjoyed by the hard-hit Midwestern States and their commuters. Higher prices hit the Rocky Mountain states and the West Coast, although California gas prices are the primary reason for the upswing in fuel costs in the Far West.

The drop in gas prices is likely due to a pair of factors. One is the summer driving season has  come to an end, with parents in nearly all states now home for the back-to-school rush. The other component of the retreating fuel prices is the drop in oil futures. Futures prices spiked around September 3, but they have been declining since September 4, and aside from a momentary high point on Monday, WTI futures, Brent crude and natural gas futures all are experiencing declining prices.

As oil futures prices decline, prices sometimes relax quickly at the pump; although, typically there is a greater lag time experienced when futures decline, versus the affected price at the pump. Nonetheless, the lower demand for gasoline, especially for summer travelers, coupled with the past week’s drop in oil futures, could lead to a stabilization of gas prices, if not further declines.

Meanwhile, truckers and other drivers of diesel cars found their prices mostly flat to slightly higher during the past week. The average U.S. price of diesel was unchanged last week, but prices on the West Coast and in New England were up. Prices for truckers in the Midwest were down, however.

Gas price trends through September 2013
Year over year, gas prices are down considerably.

Overall, drivers enjoying a much lighter impact from gasoline purchases on their wallets. The year over year numbers are nearly stellar in most regions. The average motorist will notice the price of gas is down by over 25¢ per gallon since this time last year, despite a major spike in prices that affected most of us earlier in 2013. The current unleaded cost of $3.59 per gallon is well off 2012’s figure, which was $3.85.

Unfortunately, however, the price of gas for drivers in California and the West Coast still averages near $3.80 per gallon at the moment, but that number is down from nearly $4.10 per gallon, on average, for the start of school in 2012.

For truckers, the news is nearly as good, with the average trucker on the U.S. East Coast paying about 15¢ less for a gallon of diesel this year; drivers in California and the West Coast are enjoying twice the price savings in 2013, with about 30¢ per gallon decline in diesel prices versus this time last year.



Gas Prices Keep Rising As Summer Winds Down

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Download the weekly EIA gas price survey.

Gasoline prices continued their upward march as the summer driving season wound down with the Labor Day Holiday. The weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the release of which was delayed this week because of the holiday, shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. has gone up another six-cents per gallon, setting over the $3.60 mark for the first time in several weeks.

Prices have been under tremendous pressure as crude oil futures have skyrocketed in price lately, largely on fears of instability in the Middle East, particularly the situation in Syria. While gas price increase varied widely by region, most drivers from New York Metro to the Midwest paid between five and 10 cents per gallon more for gas during the past week, compared with the weeks immediately preceeding the Labor Day weekend. Drivers in New England and the West Coast states enjoyed lower price increases or, in the case of Washington and Oregon, price declines.

Diesel fuel pump icon
Weekly diesel price survey

Meanwhile, the price of diesel fuel has jumped considerably since last week, with some drivers paying about a penny per gallon more, as in the Rocky Mountain States, and truckers across the Midwest paying about a dime per gallon more for diesel.

Despite the unreast overseas and fears of a possible colder-than-usual winter season ahead, fuel prices are down considerably from just a year ago. The U.S. average price for a gallon of regular gas is down nearly a quarter, while the price of diesel is about 15¢ per gallon less than at this time in 2012.