According to a show of hands, the vast majority of attendees at a community meeting for the Sand Lake Road traffic improvement study preferred option No. 2 from the three alternative plans presented by Orange County’s Transportation Planning Division.
The meeting, held Oct. 26 at Dr. Phillips High School, included a presentation of three alternative schemes the TPD’s transportation study suggested would significantly alleviate Sand Lake Road. The initiative was first considered 15 years ago but was shot down by local opposition and did not move forward. The study is now on the table again because of renewed demand.
Orange County officials explained to the about 70 residents in attendance that the study mainly focused on the segment of Sand Lake Road that stretches from South Apopka-Vineland Road to Turkey Lake Road. The study group assessed current and future travel demand in the area and, using computer simulations, identified possible approaches to decrease the commute time from one end of the segment to the other.
In existing traffic conditions, the average time it takes a westbound vehicle to travel the focus area of the Sand Lake Road corridor is more than 10 minutes. The most congested area, the study found, is located at the Dr. Phillips Boulevard intersection going westbound — a third of which results from traffic trying to turn right.
To reduce congestion, the study group recommended three alternative options and included the travel-time estimates for each, accounting for future traffic projections.
For Option No. 1, which recommends no constructional or operational improvements, estimated travel time would be about 9.9 minutes. The popular option No. 2 predicted 5.9 to 6.6 minutes, and option No. 3 — the more extensive and expensive option which proposed full reconstruction of the corridor — calculated a travel time of 5.1 to 7.2 minutes. The higher numbers for option No. 3 resulted from the presumption that the additional lanes would attract more cars.
Once officials explained the alternative plans, discussion followed. Among the concerns that residents voiced multiples times during the Q&A were traffic signal issues, the necessity of pedestrian traffic accommodations, and the future development that might render traffic improvement projects futile.
Four attendees complained about the green-light signal timing being too short and not being synchronized properly. Jeffrey Yorinks, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said the traffic lights’ lack of coordination restricts vehicles in adjacent lanes that could safely turn simultaneously from doing so — causing more unnecessary delays.
Jeff Arms, an Orange County representative, responded to Yorinks by assuring the traffic signals would be upgraded with a more intelligent transportation system called INSYNC that will properly synchronize the lights on Sand Lake Road.
Resident Michael Day questioned the wisdom in adding a 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path on the south side of the corridor, urging the study group to instead focus on car and bus traffic.
“The area does not get high-density pedestrian traffic,” he said.
Twenty-four-year Dr. Phillips resident Dennis Steinmetz believed the main goal should be to work with the Florida Department of Transportation to take traffic off Sand Lake Road and halt additional development until the transportation improvement projects are complete.
“If you’re trying to solve the problem on Sand Lake, it’s better you start with the FDOT and get them to take traffic off of Sand Lake,” Steinmetz said. “I know they’ve got a plan, but the plan is like 10 to 12 years out. That’s too late, because we’re approving all these development projects and we’re not doing the infrastructure. You’re putting the cart before the horse.”
District 1 County Commissioner Scott Boyd said the county is trying to respond as quickly as possible and is collaborating with other agencies to complete the task. He listed a few projects already underway intended to take traffic off Sand Lake Road, including the I-4 Ultimate, the Darryl Carter Parkway project, the State Road 528 express lanes and I-4 Beyond the Ultimate.
“These people who have already had their development rights approved — they’re coming,” Boyd said of projects currently in development. “And you can’t stop the development because they’re already approved for the development.”
Steinmetz remained unsatisfied.
“Like I said, it’s all a matter of timing. You got to stop development until you get your project done,” he said. “That’s the point.”
Visit SandLakeRoadStudy.com to learn more about the plans.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].