The cost to buy right of way for the proposed Osceola Parkway Extension could approach $479 million if the Osceola Expressway Authority chooses an alignment to avoid the environmental impact of bisecting the Split Oak Forest nature preserve.
Residents, developers and property owners got their first look this week at the three options currently under consideration for the toll road's eastern segment. Consulting engineers from Kimley-Horne will recommend a preferred alignment to OCX for the eastern segment before the end of the year.
The combined right of way and construction costs range from $618 million to $845 million. The 12-mile extension would double the length of the existing parkway and send it north to connect with S.R. 417 near Orlando International Airport. OCX has already selected preferred alignments for the western and central segments.
The eastern segment would include a full interchange at Narcoossee Road in Eagle Creek and continues through the Split Oak Forest conservation area. Eagle Creek developer Emerson International rezoned the property along the county line to gain entitlements for 254 more homesites.
Kimley-Horne Vice President Clif Tate said all three options still under consideration would require an expensive right of way negotiation with Eagle Creek. Only one alignment goes through a series of planned developments in the Narcoossee area, doubling the right-of-way costs.
Tate said the route would impact 305 homesites. They are being counted as residential relocations for purposes of right-of-way calculations even though most of the properties haven't been developed yet.
"That area is developing so quickly that in all instances, we've assumed the development is already there," Tate said.
The other two options avoid the high right-of-way costs, but require extensive elevated segments through the Split Oak Forest, which drives up the construction costs. The construction and design costs for those alignments, which include a 2-mile extension and interchange with the future Northeast Connector, are $618 million and $652 million. The primary difference between the two is the design of the interchange.
But Tate emphasized that those estimates don't include mitigating the environmental impacts to Split Oak. That expense could wipe out the right-of-way savings.
Bill Tipton Jr., a transportation engineer retained by Split Oak Investments LLC, said his clients prefer the alignment that avoids their planned development and Southern Oaks. The routes that bisect the Split Oak Forest are straighter and shorter, making them less expensive to build and safer to drive at high speeds. "It's superior for transportation and safety, and it's the most cost effective option," he said.
Tate expects to present his recommendation to the OCX board in December, but the final selection would be made after a public hearing in spring 2016. The decision to build or no-build all segments would be made in mid 2016.
OCX has about $70 million already budgeted for right-of-way acquisition and design this budget year, but the project itself isn't funded. The authority will be publishing a request for letters of interest (RFLOI) later this month for public-private partners (P3) - not just for the Osceola Parkway Extension but for the entire 60-mile beltway system that eventually links to I-4.