UPDATED: February 7, 2017 5:06 PM — Universal Orlando is seeking city approval to build a long-anticipated pedestrian bridge over Kirkman Road, taking the lead with I-4 Ultimate's main contractor on the construction cost and long-term maintenance.
Planned for just north of the Universal property's intersection with Major Boulevard, the bridge would primarily serve tourists walking to Universal Orlando theme parks. Fourteen or more hotels lie within a half mile to the east along Kirkman Road and Major Boulevard.
A determination to approve the bridge's conceptual design and location will go before Orlando City Council on Feb. 12. Universal provided preliminary designs to the city that include a rounded aluminum roof and colored side panels.
The bridge is part of the $2.3 billion Interstate 4 expansion project along 21 miles from Kirkman Road to S.R. 434 that is being managed by the consortium I-4 Mobility Partners. Its individual cost was estimated at $3 million in 2015.
The Florida Department of Transportation surprised the city of Orlando that year by asking it to handle long-term maintenance of the pedestrian bridge. The city then asked Universal and other private sector partners in 2015 to commit to help cover those costs.
Universal has since reached an agreement with I-4 ultimate contractor SGL Constructors (a Skanska-Granite-Lane joint venture) to partner on construction costs of the bridge.
"We saw an opportunity to work with the city and design aesthetic improvements for the bridge so that it becomes a more attractive welcome statement to the city and its tourism area," Universal spokesman Tom Schroder told GrowthSpotter. "Our role is to help with the design and eventual installation of the aesthetic portion of the bridge."
That colored aesthetic work on the bridge will be paid for with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, he added.
A long-term maintenance agreement is still being drafted between SGL, Universal, FDOT and the city. Orlando will be responsible for the superstructure, and Universal for all other aspects of the bridge -- the lighting, painting, architectural enhancements and more.
Planning Manager Dean Grandin wrote in a memo to council members that the bridge project should be approved, because it's consistent with the Growth Management Plan and provides a critical pedestrian link over a hazardous intersection.
Grandin's memo highlights the challenges for tourists trying to cross Kirkman Road on foot.
The city performed a pedestrian count in December 2015 at the Major Boulevard intersection. The result was a daily average of 706 pedestrian crossings, a higher than normal volume.
Pedestrians have to cross nine vehicle lanes on Kirkman where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Over the past two years, there have been 111 auto crashes within 1/8th of a mile of the intersection.