2/27/2016 – BCC Public Comment on Bike and Ped Safety

I had the opportunity to talk to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners about an initiative I am starting during public comment. The initiative is to make the area within 5 miles of UCF bike and pedestrian friendly. Here is my public comment. Watch the whole video as you will also hear Commissioner Edwards talk about plans to improve the roads as well as Mayor Jacobs talk about bike commuting.

There is already a project underway between Orange County, UCF and MetroPlan focused on bike and pedestrian safety on University and Alafaya and that is wonderful. It is a great step in the right direction. I would like to take this one step farther and not only focus on those two roads but all the roads surrounding UCF. And with that enhance the roadways to provide better connectivity for bicycle commuting.

The whole purpose of this is to get people out of cars and onto bicycles. It seems monumental but I really think with a few people focused on this, it can be done. The initial focus audience would be UCF students. Can you imagine if only a fraction of the students would choose a bike over cars? It would reduce congestion on the roads as well as parking issues at UCF.

So how do we get people out of cars and onto bikes. You certainly can’t force them and there is nothing more convenient than walking out your front door, getting into your car and having the freedom to go wherever you want. In addition, it is just not considered “cool” right now to ride a bike. Why would anyone choose a bike over a car? It really makes no sense when you have the convenience of cars. The way I see it the only way to solve this problem is to make bike travel more convenient than cars.

Then another issue is where does a student who lives in an apartment put a bike. Space is a premium. Many don’t live on the first floor so they would have to carry a bike up stairs which isn’t going to happen. And if they leave the bike on a bike rack it will be stolen or parts stolen. How does this problem get solved?

Believe it or not all of these problems are solvable and have been solved in other countries and even in other states. A university setting such as ours is perfect for these innovative ideas and can pay huge dividends if implemented. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. More to come on this.

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2/23/2016 – SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

408 Expansion Corridor Map

408 Expansion Corridor Map

On 2/23/2016 I attended the “SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study Project Group Meeting” at the CFX headquarters downtown and had the first glimpse at what the expressway might look like when completed.  As you can see from the map to the right, this is a new expressway that goes from the end of 408 out to 520.  It is divided into 3 segments.  The purpose of the meeting was to gather ideas from traffic agencies such as FDOT, Orange County and MetroPlan as well as citizens who live in the area.  The group consisted of about 20 people.

Special announcement:  There will be a public workshop on March 8th at 5 pm where you will have an opportunity to comment on these ideas and provide input.  The format will be similar to the last meeting.  Stay tuned for more information on this meeting.

The extension consists of 3 segments:

  • Segment 1: 408 to Avalon – this segment has the highest volume
  • Segment 2: Avalon to 419 – this is the segment that crosses the Econ and is environmentally sensitive
  • Segment 3: 419 to 520 – this segment is more rural

You will see in the pictures below that there are basically two approaches to building this expressway.

  • The first approach is above Hwy 50 on an elevated roadway.
  • The second approach is at the same grade as Hwy 50 either along side or between.

Here is the timeline of the project:

  • March 8th:  public workshop
  • August:  public hearing
  • October:  completion of study
  • Sometime after:  board consideration
  • If board denies project:  stops
  • If board passes the study:  project begins
  • Design phase:  2-3 years
  • Construction phase:  3-5 years
  • Best case we would see a roadway in 2020-2021 which may be segmented

There are advantages and disadvantages to both ideas which were expressed in the meeting.   Here are the highlights:

Elevated Expressway

Elevated Expressway

Both options were screened through an environmental process.  Because this expressway crosses the Econ there is more to consider when it comes to protecting our environment.  There are stringent regulation in place for this protection.  The best option in this case is the elevated approach.

How will this fit into the current project of widening Hwy 50 to six lanes?  The section from Dean to just past the Econ bridge will be completed this year and if “The Grow” is approved, the section of Hwy 50 from the bridge to 419 will be funded and begin.  The design study for this section (DOT Section 7) is underway and will be completed in August.

Will there be new roadway that will have to be re-worked?  If the “at grade” option is chosen it could mean that much of the widening being done now will have to be re-worked.  With the elevated approach, the road might not be impacted.  Another plus for the elevated approach.

As a side note, the section (DOT section 8) of Hwy 50 from 419 to 520 is scheduled to begin design and will finish around June of 2017.

Will this pay for itself?  The projections as to when this roadway will pay for itself goes all the way out to 2045 so this project will have to be sustained by the existing tollways in place now.

frogger

frogger

There were a couple of residents who live in Bithlo that were not in favor of the “at grade” option as it would divide the community and make it difficult to cross.  The thought was that pedestrians would attempt to cross both Hwy 50 and the 408 to get to the other side.  I have to admit the thought of the old game called “Frogger” entered my mind.  It does seem like a nightmare especially since the cross points would be few and far between forcing pedestrians to walk a long way out of their way to cross the street.

There was a discussion about another route that was on the original drawings that would have started just east of the Econ bridge and go south around the bottom of Bithlo and the racetrack and connect to 520.  The citizens from Bithlo were in favor of this route.  While this was an option, the right-of-way cost and environmental impact would be too great and it is not proposed on these plans.  Orange County as well as other individuals expressed concern over this route.  This route is not being considered.

My conclusion is the elevated highway is the best option however there is one big caveat and that is money.  An elevated highway like this is very expensive so that is the real fly in the ointment.  That will be up to the CFX Board to decide.  If I were on that board I would most definitely be considering cost and the expense of this elevated highway.  It would be a shame if this was the option being considered only to be denied by the board based on cost.  We need this roadway to accommodate the unsustainable trend we are on even with the 6 laning of Hwy 50.

There was a brief discussion on transit and how it plays into this expansion.  The answer I heard was the expressway can be used by Lynx as it is today.

A brief discussion that talked about purchasing land for right of way long before it is actually needed and the obvious reasons for doing so.    By planning ahead and buying undeveloped land long before it is needed would save headaches.  Headaches such as we are experiencing now with this 408 extension.  It would also save money.  But then who can foresee that far into the future.  There was talk about the 408 going south all the way from 520 to 192 and beyond.  As well as up to 46.

The pictures below are in order from west to east starting at the end of the 408 and going all the way out to 520.  Please take a close look at these pictures as you will see them again on March 8th and will have the opportunity to provide your suggestions and opinions.

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

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Traffic in East Orange County

2/14/2016 – Here’s what I know about the latest on roads in East Orange County

Here is what I know about the roads.

The Grow conceptual site plan

The Grow conceptual site plan

Let’s start with the project at Lake Pickett called “The Grow” which is the transmittal phase now and due to come up for an approval hearing soon.

“The Grow” is contributing 28 million in impact fees and proportional share money that will be allocated like this.  16 million will be used to advance the widening of Hwy 50 from the Econ bridge to 419.  This widening is on the FDOT long range plan but is currently unfunded.  When it does become funded and the money is allocated, the state will send the money back to Orange County, not “The Grow”  to be used somewhere on Orange County roads.  The other 12 million will be used to widen 419 from Hwy 50 to Lake Pickett Road.  This is the contribution from “The Grow” to the road issues we have in East Orange County.

What about the other county roads?

Over capacity segments in 2030

Over capacity segments in 2030

As you may know the mayor secured 300 million in bond money for Infrastructure that is under a name “INVEST in Our Home for Life” but is just called “Invest”.  200 million of this is allocated to the roadway system while the other 100 million to other infrastructure needs such as 15 million for bike and pedestrian improvements and other multi-modal transit projects.  28 million has been designated to be used in East Orange County.  Orange County is planning on widening McCulloch to 4-lanes from N. Tanner Road to Lockwood Blvd.  This will take a portion of the “Invest” money allocated to East Orange County.  The county does not currently have plans for the remainder of the funding until a traffic study is completed which is either underway now or will be underway soon.  The study is being paid for with “Invest” money.  We will not know where this money will be used or how until this study is complete.

Everything is on the table and is being considered in this traffic study but nothing is decided which includes the following:

  • A bridge over the Econ at McCulloch.  Notice I did not say to 419 but is certainly being considered
  • Widening Lake Pickett to 4 -lanes
  • A road from Lake Pickett to Woodbury
  • Widening Lake Pickett from Percival to Hwy 50
  • The Richard Crotty Parkway
  • Anything else that is discovered
408 Expansion Corridor Map

408 Expansion Corridor Map

Let’s dispel some myths that I have heard people say are definite.  Nothing is cast is stone such as:

  • Widening Lake Pickett from Percival to Hwy 50 is not cast in stone
  • A road from Lake Pickett to Woodbury is not cast in stone
  • A bridge over the Econ at McCulloch is not cast in stone

Let’s not forget the extension of the 408.  The second project group meeting is coming up and I will have an update in 2-3 weeks.

I have also heard that MetroPlan is performing a traffic study of the entire region which is a separate study from the one Orange County is performing so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.  Keep in mind these studies take time.  Many months in fact so be very patient.

It is great to see this focus and attention to our area and plans coming together to fix these roads.  But we still have a long way to go.

Richard Crotty extension

Richard Crotty extension

For example, the Richard Crotty Parkway, the red line on the map.  I cannot imagine the traffic studies not showing this road as a vital part of the roadway system.  We need another east-west road to move traffic.  We need connectivity from east-west to really create efficiency in our road system.  See a prior post about “Who Lives IN The DMZ Zone” and the second one called, “What is the DMZ Zone“.   Watch this video to see the DMZ Zone and connectivity.  I cannot imagine a bridge over the Econ at McCulloch unless the Richard Crotty Parkway is part of this study.  What that would do is have three east-west roads in the Rural Service Area crossing the Econ funneling down to two inside the Urban Service Area.  That would make no sense at all.  But Research Park is not too excited about the Richard Crotty Parkway and UCF is silent and neutral.

Also, Seminole County is not to thrilled with widening McCulloch or crossing the Econ at McCulloch so we will have to see how that plays out.

Sustany conceptual site plan

Sustany conceptual site plan

Let’s also not forget Lake Pickett North which was called “Sustany”.  I have heard this is coming back most likely in the the 2016 second cycle so we will have to see what that project looks like and how this will impact traffic.  The 2016 second cycle is from about September, 2016 to March, 2017 so the application will be submitted and you can expect community meetings a couple of months before September/October time frame.

But I am encouraged that we are moving in the right direction.  I have to admit I was somewhat dejected a while ago until I talked to some people recently and learned much of what I am relaying on to you.  In the world of Infrastructure wheels turn very slow and patience is all important.  All we can do is keep moving and keep coming up with ideas on how to keep this issue at the forefront in the minds of our elected officials to ensure we get the attention we deserve.

 

 

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