Rapid development in Osceola County’s East Narcoossee Area, combined with the start of construction in Sunbridge, has prompted the Central Florida Expressway Authority to accelerate work on the proposed NE Connector toll road.
The new four-lane toll road would extend 4.3 miles from Nova Road north to Cyrils Drive, in the heart of the Sunbridge master-planned community, and would likely include a full interchange at Jack Brack Road.
CFX Director of Engineering Will Hawthorne and consultant Dan Kristoff with RS&H presented an update on the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study this week for Phase 1 of the toll road. Future phases, which are not a part of the current study, would extend south past U.S. 192, all the way to the Florida’s Turnpike south of St. Cloud.
The NE Connector is one of four toll road projects CFX inherited from Osceola County when it absorbed that agency. After an initial Concept, Feasibility & Mobility Study completed in 2018, the board decided to shelve the project.
“There just wasn’t a need for it at that time,” Public Involvement Coordinator Kathy Putnam said. “They said they wanted to wait until conditions on the ground changed, and there was a need for it.”
Since that time, Tavistock Development Company has begun construction on Phase 1 of its massive Sunbridge Project, and thousands of new homes are being built along Jones Road, Jack Brack Road and Cyrils Drive. Nearly a thousand new homes have been approved at Nova and Pine Grove roads, and in the Villages of Harmony, Forestar and D.R. Horton are developing over 2,000 homes. Center Lake Ranch, approved for over 3,500 homes, is also gearing up to start construction on its first phase.
As the area develops and matures, the NE Connector would be needed to provide a north-south roadway alternative to Narcoossee Road. It could provide motorists easy access to the rest of the CFX system through a future connection to the Osceola Parkway Extension — if that project is allowed to move forward. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit to stop the toll road, pushing its construction date from 2024 to 2034.
“Currently the Osceola Parkway Extension is, at this time, a potential project where the counties are waiting for word from the state on whether that would move forward,” Putnam said.
Future connections could be made with Sunbridge Parkway or with a new State Road 534 if OPE is off the table, Putnam said. The NE Connector has no encroachment to the Split Oak Forest or Moss Park, she added.
The PD&E team evaluated two potential alignments for the road and will recommend advancing the route that was envisioned in Osceola County’s Northeast District element in the comprehensive plan. Putnam said that alignment is shorter, less expensive and has fewer environmental impacts than the other route.
CFX will host a public hearing in early August before presenting the final recommendation to the Governing Board, which then would decide whether to proceed to the design stage. There is no funding in the agency’s current Five Year Work Plan for design, right-of-way acquisition or construction for the NE Connector.