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The area marked in yellow, which includes Harmony West, has been removed from consideration for the future Northeast Connector toll road. Any proposed road alignments would fall within the red shaded area.
The area marked in yellow, which includes Harmony West, has been removed from consideration for the future Northeast Connector toll road. Any proposed road alignments would fall within the red shaded area. (OCX)

The Osceola County Expressway Authority unanimously approved a three-way contract on Tuesday with the county and Central Florida Expressway Authority for the regional agency to take over construction and operation of future toll roads.

The interlocal agreement also spells out when and how CFX could acquire the newly-opened Poinciana Parkway.

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The terms and legal language have changed substantially since Osceola commissioners adopted a MOU with CFX in April, and CFX Executive Director Laura Kelley said it could change again before it goes to her board in August.

"They have not had a chance to weigh in because they haven't seen it," she told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday.

Still, OCX board members were comfortable with the terms and happy to find a regional partner with the funding ability and experience to complete the 60-mile southern beltway. The CFX board has already added all of the Osceola projects to its own long-range plan.

"I'm delighted for the agreement we're striking," board member Bill Folsom said. "I also feel cautious, because this is so time sensitive."

The contract will go to the Osceola Board of Commissioners on July 18.

Learn why this is a historic agreement between CFX and Osceola, and how it can speed up the county's plans to build a southern beltway loop.

Once it's approved by all three parties, the clock starts ticking on a 180-day deadline for CFX to hire transportation consultants, who would then have one year to complete concept and feasibility studies of each toll project in the master plan.

If a project is deemed "viable," CFX management would be required to include the project in the agency's next 5-year capital budget, also known as the 5-year work program. If the agency fails to do so, or doesn't proceed with an approved road project, Osceola County could terminate the contract.

Learn how the western route will give Osceola drivers direct access to Orlando International Airport, and what just added $90 million to the projected cost.

It is anticipated that the Osceola Parkway Extension (OPE) would be first, followed by the Poinciana Parkway Extension (to S.R. 532), the Northeast Connector, the Southport Connector, the Poinciana Parkway Extension and I-4 interchange, and finally, the Cypress Parkway (linking Poinciana Parkway to the Southport expressway.)

"They're not all going to be viable, in fact most of them won't be," Kelley said. "But it's important that they're in the 2040 plan so we can continue to evaluate them as those areas develop. Remember, it took 30 years to build the Orlando beltway."

OCX has already selected a route and budgeted $70 million for right-of-way acquisition for the OPE. The agency is working closely with major land owners and developers to refine the study area for the NE Connector.

Phase one of Harmony West includes a mix of 536 homes and townhomes. Learn when ground could break, and what may impact the timeline.

On Tuesday, the board deleted a huge swath of land east of Alligator Lake from the study area for the toll road. The deleted land includes areas of Harmony West that are already slated for development.

OCX Chairman Atlee Mercer said it's important to work with land owners to help determine the toll road alignment because the agency will be asking for donated right-of-way. The agency worked closely with landowners in Celebration to select the route of the Poinciana Parkway, he said.

"This is an excellent process," Mercer said. "What we're doing is saying recognize that we don't need a mile-wide corridor. They have recommended to us -- at no expense to OCX -- a corridor alignment. What it basically does is tells property owners you're off the list, so you can move forward with your development plans."

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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