The Florida Department of Transportation is in the early stages of a traffic study to reduce congestion and make safety improvements on S.R. 535 from Interstate 4 to U.S. 192 in Kissimmee.
"It is a really, really congested corridor, as you know because you drive it," engineer Travis Hills told residents and stakeholders who attended a project update Tuesday night.
A number of future projects on the corridor are expected to draw even more traffic to the area. Those include the ph-Premier Resort-Residences Orlando, the expansion of Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores and the new Publix-anchored Sunrise City Plaza at S.R. 535 and Osceola Parkway.
Lennar's Storey Lake community, also at the Osceola Parkway intersection, is approved for 2,000 homes. The homebuilder is beginning design work for Phase 3.
Hills said the department had already conducted a feasibility of the corridor to determine if traffic counts and future development would warrant widening the segment between International Drive and Kyngs Heath Road to six lanes.
The department appears to have sufficient Right-of-Way available for a future widening, and Hills said any capacity improvements would also have to include accommodations for pedestrians and bicycles, and better lighting.
That section of the road lacks sidewalks, and though it has a wide shoulder, there are no bike lanes. "If I was a cyclist I would not be riding on the side of the road in those conditions today," he said.
Another objective of the study is to consider possible solutions for traffic backups on the corridor's busiest intersections: at S.R. 536, International Drive and Meadow Creek Drive.
"We've had a request for a flyover at 535 and 536," FDOT Consultant Jesse Blouin told GrowthSpotter. That intersection had 212 crashes during the five-year study period. It also has some of the worst afternoon rush-hour congestion.
The Meadow Creek intersection has been especially dangerous for pedestrians, where four were struck -- one fatally -- while walking in the crosswalk.
Engineers typically consider weekday morning and afternoon rush hour traffic counts, but residents told Hills the gridlock on S.R. 535 is even worse late at night and on weekends because of its proximity to Disney World. Hills said this is one case where the department may have to run additional models at those times to take the park-related traffic into account.
Blouin and Hills said the next phase of the S.R. 535 study would involve running traffic models with a variety of "innovative intersection" improvements, and weeding out the designs that don't improve traffic flow.
One potential solution could be a "superstreet" design, which would eliminate left turns from S.R. 536/World Center Drive onto S.R. 535. Drivers would be required to drive through the intersection and make a U-turn at the next median opening, followed by a right turn onto S.R. 535.
Those options will be presented next summer. FDOT had funding scheduled for FY2020 to begin the Project Development & Environmental study, a precursor to design and construction.
"We hope to narrow the options before we start the PD&E," Blouin said.
FDOT also plans a major redesign of the S.R. 535 - I-4 interchange as part of the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate express-lane project, which is currently in the PD&E phase. This study ends at the interchange.