I was thinking about the idea of building a bridge over the Econ and the massive amount of additional traffic this will bring and decided to write this blog. I am going to talk specifically about “GROUND ZERO” (Lockwood to N. Tanner on McCulloch). This is by no means an isolated case. This happens county wide and explains how development is in control of infrastructure in many cases.
Ground Zero – Lockwood to N. Tanner on McCulloch
How should the county handle GROUND ZERO? (in my opinion)
We know the stretch of road is bad. We see it every day. It is rated an “F” on Level Of Service (LOS) rating with 1,300 trips. That is a really bad “F” as shown in the diagram below.
Lockwood to McCulloch LOS
Orange County is required to maintain an acceptable LOS (Level of Service). This is only my opinion but I think what should happen is Orange County should look at this roadway and do a study to determine the best way to bring the LOS rating up to an acceptable level. For example, perhaps widen GROUND ZERO to 4 lanes. An “F” rating for a 4 lane road is 2,000 trips so by doing that, the road would be at an acceptable level as 1,300 is well below 2,000. There are complications to 4 laning McCulloch that need to be sorted out and personally I am not too excited about the idea because I live on McCulloch and I am not sure how this would work. Many questions need to be answered with the most obvious being is there enough room to build a 4 lane road. I think Seminole County would have to be involved in the decision and as far as I know they are not on board. Also, there are other options that are better and should be considered first.
What is a better option? Orange County could find a way to divert traffic off of McCulloch onto other roadways to reduce the trips such as add the Richard Crotty Parkway as shown below. Most of the traffic that comes onto McCulloch in the morning flows up N. Tanner. We know that a good portion of this traffic is directly related to UCF and Research Park. By adding this roadway, traffic will be diverted into UCF and Research Park reducing the trips on McCulloch and will most likely bring it into an acceptable LOS which is down below 880 trips. But a traffic study would have to be done to determine if that is the case.
In either case, this does not include any development or a bridge across the Econ.
But this is NOT reality or even possible given the way Orange County operates. Read on ….
What is reality and how this works in Orange County?
In the case of GROUND ZERO, here’s how it works. Refer to the concept plan below. A landowner bought the Rybolt land in the hope they could re-zone the land and develop the property at a much higher density than it is zoned now. But the developer knows there will be resistance from residents so they have to find a way to overcome the resistance and in this case the developer is contributing money called “proportional share” to help “fix” roads thereby partnering with Orange County. This entices Orange County to favor the development in addition to the perceived tax revenue it will gain. Revenue is a subject for another time. I believe the number that is being considered is 16 million. So Orange County takes the 16 million and the developer builds a bridge, a road, AND 1,999 homes of which 50% of the traffic will dump onto McCulloch and will keep this road a “F” rated road. My own unverified calculations are 1,300 trips plus 1,000 trips from this development = 2,300 trips which is an “F”. This does not include additional traffic that will use the road which will come from Seminole County as well as over the bridge from who knows where.
The bridge is proposed for one reason and one reason only and it is not to serve existing property owners. It is to serve this development. The proof of that is the configuration of the roadway after the crossing as well as who is driving the bridge idea. The bridge is not proposed by Orange County, it is developer driven. The road snakes its way through the development with three roundabouts along the way intended to slow traffic. This road is not designed to move traffic. It is designed to discourage pass through traffic. If it were being built for the existing property owners living close by to access McCulloch it would be a straight shot over to 419 allowing for maximum throughput. Notice there is no entrance on 419 in the northeast corner so if a person lives in this development at the northeast corner wants to go up 419, they would have to exit way down on Lake Pickett and drive all the way back up. Conversely if a person lives on 419 and wants to go to McCulloch they would have to drive all the way down to Lake Pickett and then access the road from there and that driver may then opt to use Lake Pickett instead because it might be faster than snaking through this development. Does that make sense?
There is another hidden factor that no one is talking about. The property just north of this in Seminole County. It is vacant land right now and I have heard the property owner there would love to develop it. Can you imagine another block of homes going in up there and an entrance made to this road with that traffic coming across the bridge. GROUND ZERO becomes a parking lot. What are we talking about, 500, 1,000, 2,000 more trips onto McCulloch. Don’t you think this should be examined much more closely instead of this being pushed through at light speed?
In my opinion, this development does nothing to “fix” our roads and only compounds an already existing problem. Read on ….
Conceptual Regulating Plan
In summary, all this does is continue the spiral downward and does nothing to fix the roads for the long term. Orange County needs to stand on it’s own two feet and stop relying on developer money to fix roads. If history is any indication, it has proven that this model doesn’t work and in the case of “GROUND ZERO” will just lead to more of the same.
Many people, residents, your neighbors, who are intimately involved with both Lake Pickett North and Lake Pickett South have looked at the road issues from every angle possible and I think a common theme has emerged. The theme is there is no way our infrastructure in this area and the way the roads are laid out will ever be able to support the density of Lake Pickett North at 1,999 units. There is a saying that goes, “Don’t fill a 5 lb bag with 10 lbs of ….”. Fill in the blank yourself.
This is a Trojan horse. It sounds great but will just lead to more gridlock west of the Econ. And don’t forget Lake Pickett South. If Lake Pickett South is approved, it will bring even more traffic to Lake Pickett, N. Tanner and McCulloch.
Orange County must stop allowing development to control infrastructure and find ways to fund the roads without developer money. How can one district in Seminole County that is smaller in terms of tax base make 250 million in improvements, (read here) and our district in Orange County which is much larger has to resort to using developer money to “fix” infrastructure and try to scrape together money to fix roads.
I will give credit to Orange County for securing 200 million in bonds for infrastructure but according to a presentation by Renzo Nastasi, traffic manager for Orange County, what is needed is 1.6 billion. 200 million hardly puts in a dent in what is really needed for county wide improvements. This 200 million is less than what one district in Seminole County is spending on infrastructure.
I know Seminole County has a one cent tax that contributes about 125 million each year to a defined list of roads. Why doesn’t Orange County do the same? Orange County could generate 350 million a year with a once cent tax and in five year fix every road in the entire county without developer money. Why are we being held hostage to development? Does this make any sense at all?
The tail is wagging the dog.
wag the dog
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