As Orlando grew in the 1970s and 1980s, traffic became a growing concern, especially after the construction of the original interchange with the East–West Expressway in 1973, which proved to become a principal bottleneck. The term “highway hostages” was coined in the 1980s to describe people stuck in long commutes to and from Orlando on I-4.
In the early-to-mid 1990s, several interchanges near Kissimmee were constructed or upgraded to accommodate increasing traffic going to and from Walt Disney World. However, I-4′s main lanes were not widened in the process. Around the same time, the Southern Connector was extended to I-4
The St. Johns River Veterans Memorial Bridge, a two-span, six-lane replacement to the original four-lane bridge over the St. Johns River northeast of Orlando, was completed in 2004.
During the early 2000s, tolled express lanes were being planned in the Orlando area as a traffic congestion relief technique for rush hour commuters. The name for them was to be Xpress 400, numbered after the state road designation for I-4. The express lanes were slated to extend from Universal Orlando, east to SR 434 in Longwood, and tolls were to be collected electronically via transponders like SunPass and Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority’s E-Pass, with prices dependent on the congestion of the eight main lanes. However, the project was effectively banned by the passage of the SAFETEA-LU Federal transportation bill in 2005, introduced by U.S. Representative John Mica. The plan for tolled express lanes, however, is still in the long term plans for I-4.
The eastbound exit to Robinson Street (SR 526) permanently closed on April 25, 2006, to make way for construction of the new eastbound onramp from SR 408. The westbound offramp to Gore Street was permanently closed in the same project on 2008-2011.
The new overpass from I-4 west to John Young Parkway (County Road 423, CR 423) opened the morning of April 27, 2006
On January 9, 2008, 70 vehicles were involved in a large pileup on I-4 near Polk City. The pileup was caused by an unexpected thick morning fog that was mixed with a scheduled—and approved—environmental burn by the Florida Wildlife Commission. The fog drifted across I-4, mixing with the smoke, reducing visibility to near-zero conditions. Four people were killed, and 38 were injured. The section of I-4 did not re-open until the next day, January 10