The county is about 65% of the way through its preliminary design study for road improvements to County Road 545 and Flemings Road.
Although construction is still a few years away, a preliminary design study is underway for improvements to two major roadways in Horizon West.
Orange County’s Transportation Planning division has initiated the study for County Road 545 and Flemings Road. The plan is to widen C.R. 545 to a four-lane divided roadway from Water Spring Boulevard to south of new Hartzog Road — about a 2.6-mile stretch — as well as a mile of Flemings Road from east of C.R. 545 to the west county line.
ROAD IMPROVEMENTS ON THE WAY
With Flemings Road extended to Sawgrass Bay Boulevard, it also will give Western Way direct access to U.S. 27 and Wellness Way — an area plan in Lake County similar in some ways to Horizon West.
“This is a public-private partnership project with the developers of Horizon West Village I,” said Brian Sanders, the county’s assistant manager of transportation and planning. “This is a study that’s evaluating the widening of C.R. 545 and the widening and extension of Flemings. … We have a road agreement with the participants in Village I that provides for the study itself.
“It provides for the donation of right of way from those participating property owners in exchange for impact fee credits,” he said. “The property owners that are signed into the agreement will be dedicating portions of their properties for this project, as well.”
The agreement also allows for the design of the roadway and construction. Orange County will acquire the right of way parcels that are not controlled by the developers.
Another part of the agreement is that Flemings Road will connect to the Orange/Lake county line by Jan. 1, 2026. Orange County will construct a four-lane road to the county line for its part.
“Lake County has approved a road on their side called Sawgrass Bay Boulevard,” Sanders said. “They’ve ended it short of the county line … and there’s a planned roundabout as a connecting point in Lake County. They’ll have to construct that, and we will connect to that at the county line. We will have a four-lane facility connecting to the roundabout, and I believe they will have a two-lane facility. I believe they have a four-lane facility planned for the future.”
Sanders said the widened road will look much like the section currently under construction — a four-lane divided highway with a grass landscaped median, a multipurpose path on one side and a sidewalk on the other.
“It’s really representative of what’s happening up in Village H,” he said. “Incidentally, this road has been in our long-range plan for a good 20 years. … The county planners did a sector plan 25 years ago, maybe 30, so each one of the villages had a specific area plan done with it, and all these roadways came out of those planning documents way back.”
PLANS IN PROCESS
Sanders said the preliminary design study currently is about 65% complete. Its purpose is to envision the road improvements to meet future travel demand needs and determine the alignment of a cross section.
“You determine the right-of-way impacts, you establish the basis for eminent domain for the pieces that you don’t control, you determine the stormwater needs, you go out to the public and show them what is being recommended,” he said. “They get to make their comments. We’ll also have public hearings on this. Even though this project was approved by the (Orange County Board of County Commissioners) with the road agreement, we come back to our board with what it really turned out to be. There’s an alternative analysis that’s done with the alignment … to determine what the best fit is for the project.”
“The biggest thing is it improves safety for all of the users in the corridor.” — Brian Sanders, Orange County
Factored into these studies are the social and environmental impacts of adding travel lanes and other features such as drainage, paths and sidewalks, raised medians and lighting.
Sanders said county staff has instructed the project consultant to start preparing for the first public community meeting. Additionally, staff has scheduled a final review of all materials. During the review, staff will be able to make final comments before bringing the project to the public.
If all goes to plan, he said, it could take about six weeks before the community meeting happens. Newsletters will be mailed to nearby property owners at certain milestones to inform them of the project. The county will also have to spend time on design and acquire necessary right of way before construction can occur.
Blanche Hardy, project manager for the county, said staff already has received significant feedback from the public — particularly from residents of Lake County.
“I believe that all but one of the residents and citizens that have asked us questions or responded to the project have wanted to go as fast as we can make it happen,” Hardy said. “The connection between 27 and Avalon is really important to the community out there. … We strongly encourage anybody interested to participate in the public meeting and let us know what they think.”
“The biggest thing is it improves safety for all of the users in the corridor,” Sanders said of the project. “Everyone knows that more and more development is occurring every day out there, and this project meets those capacity needs.”