Feasibility studies nearly complete for four new Osceola & CFX toll roads

The Central Florida Expressway Authority has scheduled a final round of public meetings this month on the concept and feasibility studies for four new Osceola County toll roads before a final report goes to the board March 8.

Back in April, CFX hired four local engineering firms to reevaluate the studies that had previously been done for the toll roads: the Osceola Parkway Extension (OPE), the Poinciana Parkway Extension/I-4 Connector, the Northeast Connector Expressway and the Southport Connector Expressway.

The open house sessions will take place Feb. 13 at St. Cloud High School, Feb. 15 at Lake Nona Middle School and Feb. 21 at Association of Poinciana Community Center. All meetings start at 5:30 p.m. 

Project spokeswoman Mary Brooks told GrowthSpotter those Concept and Feasibility Studies are nearly complete. The consulting engineers will present their data to the public and incorporate feedback from the meetings in the final reports.

In the case of OPE, engineers from CH2M have already realigned some potential routes based on responses from public agencies and environmental groups, which opposed the previously adopted route that would have bisected the Split Oak Forest preserve area.

The firm also shifted the western section of the toll road away from Boggy Creek Road and into the Poitras Property, which is south of Lake Nona/Medical City and is under contract to Tavistock Development Company.

Brooks said Tavistock's acquisition of the 200-acre "Springhead" property this week could influence the route selection, especially if the developer bought the land specifically to sell or donate right-of-way for the toll road.

Tavistock would be a motivated seller, since the toll road would provide direct connectivity between the developer's three largest projects: Lake Nona, Poitras and Sunbridge.

"Those types of partnerships would be looked at even more closely in the PD&E study phase," Brooks said.

The toll road would likely include an elevated airport connector from Medical City to OIA's new South Terminal, but that element is not included in the evaluation matrix. All of the potential route alignments come in at least $100 million less than the previously adopted route, but the traffic counts are also lower -- some by as much as 35 percent.

Brooks said the CFX board will evaluate the data to determine if any of the toll roads meet the agency's viability standards. The road must be able to generate enough revenue to pay for 50 percent of the operating cost and debt service to move forward in the planning process.

The Poinciana Parkway Extension/I-4 Connector is a 13-mile extension of the existing toll road, which currently ends at U.S. 17-92 in Polk County. Consultants from Kimley-Horn concur with the earlier study for that project, which recommended connecting to the interstate at either S.R. 429/Reunion or C.R. 532/ChampionsGate. 

The Kimley-Horn team has evaluated costs and impacts for 11 different scenarios. In this case, converting S.R. 429 to a full interchange results in significantly higher traffic counts, potentially 33 percent more vehicles per day. But it's also the more expensive option, with estimated costs generally in the $1.3 billion range.

The other option is to widen C.R. 532 and build an elevated toll road, which would cost around $1 billion. 

The study corridor for the Southport Connector Expressway begins at the Poinciana Parkway/Cypress Parkway intersection and extends east for 13 miles, through the county's South Lake Toho district, to the Florida Turnpike.

The segment between Cypress Parkway and Poinciana Parkway would be built in existing right-of-way, and the toll road could be elevated. The consultants evaluated six alignments, all would cost about $1.1 billion.

The proposed NE Connector Expressway starts at the Southport Expressway/FL Turnpike interchange and curves northeast, alongside Alligator Lake and through Tavistock's planned Sunbridge community to connect with the OPE. It would have multiple interchanges, including U.S. 192 near Harmony and Nova Road.

The most direct route, west of Alligator Lake, is the shortest, clocking in at 16 miles. It would generate the highest traffic volumes, approximately 25,600 trips per day. But it would also impact 181 existing homes and 232 non-residential parcels. 

"The financial viability is only one factor the board considers," Brooks said. "The other impacts are also considered, whether it's environmental or right-of-way. If the project comes out that the numbers work but we’ve got to take 500 homes, that’s not going to work." 

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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