The MetroPlan Orlando board in Florida, US, has approved a $1.7bn Wekiva Parkway financing plan that will complete the beltway around Central Florida, clearing the way for bidding next month.

The project will see the construction of 25 miles of new toll expressway through Orange, Seminole, and the Lake counties.

Work also involves non-toll road improvements, including construction of seven miles of four-lane and six-lane portions of SR 46, reconstruction of the US 441/SR 46 interchange in Mount Dora, and relocation of the CR 46A to provide greater benefits to wildlife connectivity and local road systems.

The plan will now be reviewed by the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organisation and the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to allocate funding for the project.

Wekiva Parkway completes the last segment of Central Florida’s beltway around northwest metropolitan Orlando.

The project will provide an alternative to Interstate 4, and relieve US 441 and other area roads of traffic congestion resulting from the growth and travel in the areas it links.

In Lake and Seminole counties, the roadway will replace segments of existing SR 46, which will improve safety and reduce accidents.

The project will develop a transportation facility that minimises impacts to Wekiva River Basin resources, as well as improving wildlife habitat connectivity between conservation lands and reducing vehicle collisions with animals.

The Wekiva Parkway project would replace the two wildlife tunnels under SR 46 with two wildlife bridges, 6,000ft in length, which would enhance habitat connectivity by allowing more animals to safely move between the Rock Springs Run State Reserve and the Seminole State Forest.

Another 800ft long bridge is planned for the Neighborhood Lakes conservation property, to allow wildlife to move to and from the Rock Springs Run State Reserve.

In addition, the parkway would replace the existing 561ft Wekiva River bridge with a new one that would be 2,150ft in length.

Should the project receives all the necessary approvals, construction could begin towards the end of 2012 and be complete in 2021.