Hamlin Groves Trail will give drivers in south Winter Garden a direct connection to State Road 429.
When residents living in neighborhoods such as Independence and Orchard Hills want to travel State Road 429, they have to drive miles out of their way just to get there — heading north on Tiny Road, east on Tilden Road and north on County Road 535 before connecting with the 429.
Not only does this waste time, but it adds to the congestion on C.R. 535.
Relief is coming in the form of a new road, one that will take folks directly to New Independence Parkway and then to 429. Currently, the beltway crosses over Tiny Road with no access.
The new route, called Hamlin Groves Trail, currently stops north of Wal-mart on the east side of the shopping center.
“The intent all along has been for that road to continue east to Tiny Road on the north side of (the future) Horizon West Regional Park,” Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said.
The project was delayed after tortoises and sand skinks were discovered on the property, she said.
“It's very crucial for the infrastructure for this road to get done,” she said. “It will provide some equilibrium for folks heading to Orlando on 429.”
The $1.5 million cost is being paid by Boyd Development in exchange for impact fee credits with Orange County.
“The benefit is that it can be done faster and cheaper,” VanderLey said. “Otherwise, it would go to the bottom of the list of roads to be done.”
A pre-construction conference is scheduled for Jan. 30, when a start date will be determined. Construction will take about 15 months, provided all the environmental permits are in place.
Also adding to the burden on the roads in that area is Bridgewater Middle School traffic. VanderLey said the school was built for about 1,300 students; there are currently more than 2,600.
“All those parents are picking up and dropping off and heading that same way, from Tiny to Tilden,” she said.
A backup happens at Tilden and Tiny because there is no traffic light. VanderLey said that in her first week as county commissioner last year, she asked county engineers to look at that intersection.
“They’re woefully over capacity on that road,” she said. “We’re in discussions for a turn lane and traffic signal at Tilden and Tiny. … It's in design right now for a turn lane and traffic signal. We’re figuring out, do we need more right-of-way, do we have enough right-of-way, all of that.”
She said the cost can't be determined until those acquisition questions are answered.
“That one is at the top of my hit parade right now once the design is done,” VanderLey said. “Tilden and Tiny wasn’t on anyone’s radar to improve until I got into office.”
HORIZON WEST REGIONAL PARK
The commissioner is pushing for the county to hire a master planner for the Horizon West Regional Park, which was once called Sportsplex Park. The 220-acre space is bordered by Tiny Road to the north, Bridgewater Middle School to the east and Hamlin Groves Trail to the west.
Orange County hopes to hire the planner by the spring. Once hired, this person will help the county determine the best uses for this land, as well as funding sources.
The planning process will take about a year, and officials will hold stakeholder meetings with residents and community organizations.
“We recognize that we need ball fields, but we also need public art, jogging trails, public meeting spaces for all the groups that want to meet in Horizon West,” VanderLey said.
“We want to make sure we have enough spaces for people to recreate.”
DEALING WITH GROWTH
According to MetroPlan Orlando, the metropolitan planning organization that covers Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, this tri-county area is growing at a rate of about 1,000 new residents a week, not including the evacuees from Puerto Rico.
On top of that, VanderLey said, of all the residential building permits pulled last year in unincorporated Orange County, about 55% of those were in Horizon West.
“What I focus most of my time on is roads, parks, traffic signals, turn lanes — the impact of all those residents coming here and putting their cars on our roads and their kids in our schools.”