On March 21st I went down to the Orange County Board of County Commissioner (BCC) chambers for public comment. We get 3 minutes to speak.
I wanted to express my concern about our traffic situation in East Orange County. You can view my public comment below and the response from our new commissioner, Emily Bonilla, as well as Mayor Jacobs. Honestly, I do not feel comfortable with what Emily Bonilla had to say as her response was vague and non-committal. We need answers to tough questions and we need to know exactly where she stands on some issues. At the bottom of this blog, I have some specific questions for her. I did appreciate the mayor’s comments about holding a work session in the near future to discuss our traffic situation. She also said decisions should be made as a board regarding traffic rather than the district commissioner making those decision. I will keep you posted on this work session when I hear more.
My concern lies in what I know about Emily Bonilla and also what has transpired with Commissioner Edwards. Unchecked, a commissioner has the power to steer the district in the direction of their choice as demonstrated by Commissioner Edwards. We know that Commissioner Edwards was an advocate of development and made deals to build roads using developer money. He even tried to cross the Econ at McCulloch opposing a large majority of his constituents which I think got him un-elected (View my video on the river crossing). Now we have the opposite; a very strong advocate of the rural area in Emily Bonilla. While I too am a strong advocate of the environment as well as the rural area and cherish the Econ River Basin, I am also very concerned with our traffic situation and feel Commissioner Bonilla may not wish to make changes that are necessary because of her strong passion for the rural area and how she thinks it will impact traffic on the rural roads.
How do I know this? I was a member of Save Orange County (SOC) at the same time she was so I have knowledge that most people don’t. A while ago, I once heard Emily Bonilla talk about her commute to work at Full Sail from Lake Pickett Road on McCulloch Road and she said she didn’t see a problem with traffic. I was shocked as McCulloch Road is an “F” rated road. That comment has stuck with me and now resonates in my mind. I also know that she has said in the past that she wants to keep traffic off the rural roads and on the main arterial roads. The significance of that statement is that our issues on the west side of Econ between the Econ and UCF will not get fixed because in her mind any improvements to the connectivity of these roads will draw traffic onto Lake Pickett and other rural, county road which she doesn’t want. See my post on the DMZ Zone.
This thinking will most certainly lead to big problems down the road as connectivity is the key (Watch Jon Weiss talk about the connectivity issues) to moving traffic and if nothing happens for four more years our issues will compound. Here are some key thoughts to consider:
- I know CFX is looking at alternative pathways for the 408 extension and FDOT is looking at Hwy 50 right-of-way. But no matter what happens, the 408 extension won’t fix McCulloch.
- I know there is 38 million dollars from the INVEST program which was allocated to East Orange County roads. I have heard rumbling that it may not be used for McCulloch Road and may have already been taken for other uses. I would like assurance this is not the case because for over 20 years impact fees that should have been used to improve our roads in East Orange County have been used elsewhere. We must fight to keep this money in our district and specifically for road improvements in East Orange County.
- I know Seminole County wants to work with Orange County to fix the traffic issues in our area but wants an assurance from Orange County a bridge will not cross the Econ at McCulloch. Orange County doesn’t want to make that commitment so we are at a stalemate. I call it the McCulloch Road stalemate.
- UCF has 64,000 students and there is NO DOUBT the problems on McCulloch are a direct result of UCF traffic. When will UCF come to the table to help fix this problem?
Here is something you don’t know. Bicycle traffic on the McCulloch sidewalk is on the rise and riding on the road is not an option if you saw my videos from last year (Cycling on McCulloch Road). I used to be the only bike on the sidewalk, now I have competition. This must be addressed sooner than later as this will soon be a safety issue. 5 feet of sidewalk is not enough to allow safe passing on bicycles. More on this later.
Here are my questions for Commissioner Bonilla:
- What is your position regarding McCulloch Road?
- Are you in favor of 4-laning McCulloch Road?
- If not then what is your plan to address traffic on McCulloch Road?
- What is your position regarding the Richard Crotty extension from the end of Research Parkway to North Tanner? (Read this on the Richard Crotty)
- What is your plan to address the connectivity issues in East Orange County?
- Are you in favor of widening Lake Pickett Road to 4 lanes?
- If not then what is your solution to move traffic when the now 6-lane Hwy 50 continues to gridlock?
- Will you help drive the regional traffic study that has already been funded through INVEST dollars?
- If not then what is your plan if the traffic study is not completed to prevent gridlock in the future and make sound, educated decision based on facts?
- What is your plan to ensure safe, efficient passage in the case of evacuation from the east?
We just cannot wait any longer. Commissioner Edwards had a plan that was years in the making and fell apart when Lake Pickett North (LPN) was denied so all that time is lost while traffic grows. Now we are back at square one and cannot afford years of inactivity while traffic continues to get worse. We need a commissioner who is focused on the traffic issues and in her words, “work diligently to solve all of the traffic issues”.