"As you can imagine I am ecstatic," W192 Executive Director David Buchheit told GrowthSpotter Friday. "This type of landscape change is needed due to the age and condition of the landscaping on W192. It is really going to make W192 feel like a new roadway."
Buchheit said the grant requires no local match, with the exception of the design costs. It will provide enough funding to makeover the medians for the entire 11-mile corridor from Kissimmee to the Polk County line.
He said the median enhancement was chosen because the county plans to upgrade the transit service on W192 to Bus Rapid Transit, an enhanced service that could include dedicated lanes. Buchheit said it wouldn't make sense to install landscaping in the right-of-way that would have to be removed in a few years.
"The BRT system wouldn't affect the medians," he said.
The grant will be funded over two fiscal years with the bulk of the project being completed in FY2018. The total purchase list calls for 212 crape myrtles (100 gallon) and 244 Medjool Date Palms, which are specimen trees and cost $6,000 each.
The authority would also remove the Washingtonia Palms, which are dying, as well as any existing shrubs and plantings. The development authority would be responsible for maintaining the landscaping.
The landscaping project is one of several efforts the development authority has taken to improve the look of the tourist corridor, starting with the "BeautiVacation" project that added sidewalks, mile markers, decorative lighting and landscaping along the right-of-way. The authority is also working with Duke Energy on a proposal to bury powerlines along portions of the highway.
The authority has also awarded grants to more than 90 business owners to replace their pole signs with new, standard monument signs that match the corridor's theme.
The agency is even planning to repaint the purple light poles next year, Buchheit said.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated with new details.