The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is reviewing a new recommendation from the state to build an interchange at I-4 and Daryl Carter Parkway. If approved, construction wouldn't start until 2018 at the earliest, but the green light could spur plans for hundreds of acres on the tourism corridor's southern end.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) final recommendation for the interchange is now under review by the FHWA. FDOT pitched a unique configuration for the project, and expects to receive FHWA's comments by the end of this week, senior project manager Beata Stys-Palasz told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday.
FDOT doesn't know if FHWA will accept their interim design concept, which does not have all the ramps usually included in an interchange. The argument is that three out of four is good enough, and this design can be pursued now rather than waiting for a full interchange to be built with the reconstruction of that portion of I-4.
The interchange has been hotly anticipated for years by property owners in the area. Land north of Ruby Lake and Vineland Premium Outlets will also benefit from a 1.6-mile extension of Daryl Carter Parkway from Palm Parkway to S. Apopka-Vineland Road scheduled to start in February 2017, and open up the lucrative Dr. Phillips-area zip code to retail east of I-4.
FDOT will have about two weeks to address FHWA's comments on the interchange design when they're sent back.
The two sides would then meet to discuss, reach an agreement, and FDOT would resubmit a final report. The goal is to have the document approved by year's end, Stys-Palasz said.
Three options were evaluated for an interchange at Daryl Carter Parkway: a Single Point Urban Interchange (the originally approved FHWA alternative), a Tight Urban Diamond Interchange (TUDI), and a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI).
Each were analyzed using peak traffic data, and the DDI option performed the best, according to FDOT's System Access Modification Report for the "I-4 Beyond the Ultimate" project's south section, a stretch from west of U.S. 27 to west of S.R. 435 (Kirkman Road).
The Diverging Diamond model would take the two directions of traffic on Daryl Carter Parkway and cross them to the opposite side while on the bridge over I-4.
It's the cutting edge of traffic engineering, but unusual to the uninitiated. It makes motorists on the overpass briefly drive on the opposite side of the road, which makes left turns easier onto the highway.
DDI is also the only one of the Diamond formats that can fit on the bridge that Orange County built in 2013, which connects Daryl Carter Parkway to Palm Parkway.
That memo should determine a timeline for the project, and the dedication of roughly 4 acres for Right-of-Way (ROW) to the interchange from O'Connor Capital's side.
The challenge will be getting FHWA's approval for the interim configuration, which as of now only has three of four ramps, discarding the Daryl Carter Parkway-eastbound to westbound I-4.
In theory, that ramp is not necessary because of how close this interchange will be to the existing one south at S.R. 535, Stys-Palasz said. But FHWA usually prefers a complete interchange, without the missing movement.
"This is why we are developing some different concept plans for the interim configuration," she said. "I may know in the next two to three weeks if this is possible."
A best case scenario timeline -- beginning in January 2017 -- would be 16 months for design and ROW acquisition from the cooperative Carter and O'Connor groups, with construction to follow in mid-2018, Stys-Palasz said.
Of Carter's 198 acres across eight parcels surrounding the interchange site, 100-plus are under contract and should close this year, with another 50 acres pending contract that could close in First Quarter 2017, GrowthSpotter reported in July.
O'Connor Capital has 69 of those acres south of I-4 under contract, and filed its Development Plan (DP) on Tuesday with Orange County for the proposed Vineland Pointe retail power center.
Situated north of Lake Street and Regency Village Drive, and on either side of Daryl Carter Parkway, the DP shows that Phase 1 would cover 20.87 acres (189,500 square feet of retail), Phase 2 would develop 32.54 acres (113,600 SF), Phase 3 would tackle 16 acres (136,000 SF).
O'Connor Capital declined on Wednesday to name signed tenants for Vineland Pointe, but elevations in the DP include The Cheesecake Factory brand.
Marketing materials online for the project also name Cheddar's, Cheesecake Factory, Under Armour, Marshall's, Ulta, Ross and DSW as prospective tenants.
Some of those brands are ones O'Connor Capital helped place last year in The Crossland and Cinque Terra shopping centers in Kissimmee, which it sold with joint venture partner Tupperware for $121 million on Aug. 5.
The new DP shows retail and dining space ranging in size from 3,000 to 45,000 square feet, with the largest pegged for a movie theater, per the marketing materials.