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Osceola Expressway Authority selects route for toll road extension

Osceola Expressway Authority selects route for toll road extension
The Osceola County Expressway Authority picked a route for the eastern segment that crosses parts of the environmentally sensitive Split Oak Forest (shown in pink). Everything shown in blue is future development. The toll road would extend through the future Sunbridge development and  eventually connect to the planned Northeast Connector toll road. (Osceola County)

The Osceola County Expressway Authority has selected preferred routes for the Osceola Parkway Extension (OPE), including the eastern segment that bisects the Split Oak Forest.

The governing board also revised its earlier recommended western route to include a full, four-way interchange at OPE and S.R. 417, giving drivers from Osceola direct access to Orlando International Airport.

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The total project cost for all three segments of the OPE now approaches $1 billion, according to project manager Clif Tate, senior vice president at Kimley-Horn.

Tate said his team worked closely with airport officials, Central Florida Expressway Authority and Lake Nona developer Tavistock on the route. They considered a different route that would have shifted the toll road east of Boggy Creek Road, onto the airport's Poitras property, but ultimately decided to keep the previous alignment and redesign the interchange.

The OCX board has worked closely with officials at the Orlando International Airport, Central Florida Expressway Authority and Tavistock on a route that makes the full interchange possible between Osceola Parkway Extension and S.R. 417. The interchange gives Osceola County residents direct access to the airport.
The OCX board has worked closely with officials at the Orlando International Airport, Central Florida Expressway Authority and Tavistock on a route that makes the full interchange possible between Osceola Parkway Extension and S.R. 417. The interchange gives Osceola County residents direct access to the airport. (Osceola County)

That redesign, and building the two north-south ramps, adds about $90 million to the projected cost of the road, bringing the total to nearly $340 million, Tate said.

Daniel Blackford, a broker for NAI Realvest, said he preferred the route that would have shifted the toll road onto airport property. That alignment, he said, would have allowed for an economic development corridor on both sides of Boggy Creek Road. Adventist Health, parent company of Florida Hospital, owns land on the west side of Boggy Creek Road.

Kimley-Horn also eliminated a route that would have shifted the toll road and interchange west of the Adventist property. It would have required relocation of 195 homes, compared to 11 homes affected by the preferred alignment.

Tate explained that most of the property on the east side of Boggy Creek Road is still rural, which costs less than undeveloped commercial land.

Right of way costs were a factor in the selection of the eastern segment, which extends from Narcoossee Road through Tavistock's future Sunbridge development. Kimley-Horn recommended and the OCX board approved a route that avoids the Southern Oaks development in favor of a route through the environmental preserve.

That decision reduces the number of displaced homes (or entitled homesites) by 152, and shaves the estimated right of way costs by $245 million. Tate told GrowthSpotter the projected cost for the eastern segment of $579 million does not include the expense of mitigating environmental impacts to Split Oak, but they are chancing that it would still be less than $245 million.

"That's the thinking," Tate said.

"I assume Orange County has been consulted on this alignment?" OCX Chairman Atlee Mercer asked.

Tate advised that all information had been shared with Orange County, and that county officials had voiced no opinion on the alignment.

The vote Tuesday eliminates all other eastern segment alignments from consideration. The only decision now will be whether to build the toll road or not.

OCX will host a public hearing in September for the OPE, and vote before the end of the year. If the board elects to move the project forward -- it is in the OCX 2040 master plan -- it will have $70 million earmarked in next year's budget to begin roadway design and right-of-way acquisition immediately.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify comments by Daniel Blackford in the sixth paragraph.

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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