The Osceola County Expressway Authority will release a draft version of the request for letters of interest (RFLOI) to highway contractors and investors in early March for its 60-mile beltway system.
OCX board members agreed Tuesday to hold an industry forum in mid-March and meet privately with prospective bidders before publishing the official RFLOI. The authority is looking for private sector investment to help design, build and operate the $2.5 billion toll road network.
"We are dramatically changing our approach to this process," Chairman Atlee Mercer said. "We're going to introduce ourselves to the world, and first impressions are critical."
He said seeking input from the industry before the formal solicitation should help the agency avoid making substantive changes to the RFLOI. The Florida Department of Transportation took a similar approach before posting the solicitation for the I-4 Ultimate project.
Project manager Jan Everett with AECOM agreed that the measured approach is important for OCX to have credibility in the marketplace. The authority is less than two months away from opening its first toll road, the Poinciana Parkway, on April 30.
"You are a very young agency, and right now you have no revenue stream," she said. "That will change in a few months. The document needs to have enough technical detail so the industry has confidence in that agency moving forward."
The beltway loop encompasses Osceola's entire urban growth boundary, and includes the Osceola Parkway Extension (OPE) and Southport Connector, which are in the preliminary design stage now. The beltway is expected to become a part of the consolidated Central Florida Expressway System that will include Orlando and its northern beltway system.
OCX consulting engineer Clif Tate with Kimley-Horn has been working closely with officials from CFX and Orlando International Airport on a new four-way interchange and alignment for OPE, where it intersects S.R. 417.
The new design, suggested late last year by airport staff, would shift the interchange slightly to the east and relocate to toll road onto airport property - instead of running parallel to Boggy Creek Road. CFX officials have raised some concerns about the new interchange design.
"CFX wants to make sure that what we're proposing can be constructed," Tate said. "We believe it can be constructed."