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Osceola Expressway Authority preps for $2.5B toll road solicitation

Osceola Expressway Authority preps for $2.5B toll road solicitation
Estimated traffic projections for each Osceola County toll road will be included in the formal request for letters of interest for the 60-mile beltway loop. The formal solicitation will be published in April or May. (AECOM)

The Osceola County Expressway Authority board got its first look at traffic and revenue projections for future toll roads, in advance of publishing a request for letters of interest for construction of the $2.5 billion beltway system.

The OCX board held a workshop Tuesday to review details of the RFLOI before scheduling an industry summit for potential bidders.

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The county is looking for private sector partners to finance and build the planned 60-mile system of toll roads that will interconnect with the I-4, the Florida Turnpike and Orlando's northern beltway. The beltway encompasses Osceola's entire urban growth boundary and is broken into five separate toll road projects - two of which are expected to be real moneymakers.

Jan Everett, project manager for OCX consultant AECOM, said the Poinciana Parkway (PP) which opens in early May, and the Osceola Parkway Extension (OPE), which will provide access to Orlando International Airport, are expected to generate the highest traffic volumes and revenues.

The PP and OPE are expected to generate a combined 17,400 daily trips and $20.9 million in tolls by the year 2030. By the year 2050, the two toll roads could generate 34,400 average daily trips and $69.4 million a year in tolls. Everett called those numbers conservative, saying she adjusted them downward from earlier estimates.

"Before we were over the ceiling and overly optimistic," she said. "We want to be very conservative so we know where the floor is. As we move through the process, each proposer will be conducting their own traffic analysis for their own revenue projections. How risky they choose to be is their choice."

OCX Chairman Atlee Mercer said the opening of Poinciana Parkway this year will set an important precedent, and should make the beltway package attractive to outside investors. "If we meet projections, that road will be a cash cow for the whole system," he said.

But it also could create a situation where multiple firms elect to bid only for the most lucrative segments of the network.

"We have two competing interests in that we want the whole thing built," Mercer said. "We also know that perhaps they're going to cherry pick it initially and segment it."

Samara Barend, a P3 specialist for AECOM, advised the board to identify and minimize the risks before publishing the solicitation. The board needs to determine the level of public subsidy that will be committed, and it needs a transition plan from OCX to the Central Florida Expressway Authority.

"We know that's an issue that needs to be clarified going forward," Mercer said. "We're going to get together and hash out how it's going to work."

Mercer has asked CFX to commit up to $100 million toward the project. CFX Executive Director Laura Kelley said she would bring the funding request up for discussion with her board soon.

Editors note: This article was updated to correct the projected toll revenue in 2030 to $20.9 million. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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