Punta Gorda: Embracing the RV Lifestyle in Florida

New roads and investments in mobility to sustain the demand from traveling homes

Punta Gorda, like many other towns in Florida, offers a serene coastal setting and all the essentials for a good life. It boasts amenities such as food, job opportunities, clean air, a high level of safety, and, of course, the sea. With approximately 20,000 residents, the town has become home to Matt and Belinda Gordon, who relocated from Michigan a couple of years ago and purchased a house in an RV community. Their patio-garage, like those of their neighbors, accommodates a Recreational Vehicle (RV).

Proudly identifying themselves as “RVers,” Matt and Belinda enthusiastically join the estimated 40 million Americans who engage in RVing. They embark on their journeys using their Class A RV, measuring 30 feet long and 9.5 feet wide (over 9 meters by 2.9). “This summer, we’re visiting parks in California, then heading up to Alaska. We’ll be back in September,” they say. “We have everything we need. We just need good, safe roads.”

The Demand for Safe Roads from Motorists

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) highly values the specific request of RVers. The RV industry is estimated to be worth between 25 to 30 billion dollars in America. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), one in ten families owns an RV, and 44 million Americans are preparing to go RVing this summer. Many of them are choosing Florida as their residence. According to official estimates, the Sunshine State is experiencing rapid population growth, with 2.8 million new residents expected by 2030.

As the number of residents increases, so does the number of vehicles on the roads. Consequently, the network of roads and highways expands, with wider lanes, new overpasses, and traveler support services. Over the years, the American Interstate system has developed to cover over 75,600 kilometers (47,000 miles), forming a network that includes 610,000 bridges, over 500 tunnels, and transports 11.9 billion tons of goods annually. Interstates are designed to allow Americans to travel from south to north and from east to west. From Florida, one can reach Canada and, through California, Mexico. Travelers journey across miles-long bridges, such as the one from Miami to Key West.

Florida‘s two major arteries, which connect to numerous other highways, are I-75 and I-95. Both originate around Miami, at the southern tip of the state, corresponding to the southernmost region of the United States. The two Interstates are 2,875 kilometers (1,786 miles) and 3,071 kilometers (1,908 miles) long, respectively, crossing six states for the former (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan) and a staggering 16 for the latter (from Florida to Maine).

The American Love for Automobiles

Since the 1960s, traveling by car from one end of the United States to the other has been a popular choice among Americans, coinciding with the debut of the highway system under the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This preference persists despite a transportation system that includes over 5,200 public airports and over 19,000 airstrips when considering private flights.

Around major cities like Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and up to the capital of Tallahassee, Florida has required new interchanges, widened lanes, connecting ramps, and, most importantly, expressways or turnpike ramps for high-speed long-distance travel to bypass congestion around various local exits. Over the years, the most experienced companies in the field have been called upon to contribute to these new routes. Lane Construction (a Webuild Group subsidiary) has been involved in the American Interstate system since its inception, particularly in Florida’s vital junctions of Tampa and Orlando, with completed or recently awarded projects.

While the ongoing and upcoming projects defined by the Florida government do not prioritize RVers as their sole target audience, they remain an important factor for analyzing traffic flows and deciding where to build new mobility infrastructure. This is especially relevant when considering the RVIA’s study titled “Move American Economic Impact,” which states that the mega RV industry has an annual impact of $140 billion on the American economy. It supports nearly 680,000 jobs with a total wage income of over $48 billion and accounts for a 23% growth in economic output over the last three years.