It's difficult to hop in the car to make a quick run anywhere in West Orange County. As more people visit the area and decide to call it home, the capacity of the roads cannot keep up with the amount of traffic traveling them.
Traffic nightmares seem to be all around us, but the good news is that Orange County Government continues to make road infrastructure improvements. Drivers just need to be patient with the process.
“Our roadway takes about eight years from conception to completion,” said Raymond Williams, Engineering Division manager with Orange County's Public Works Department, as he explained the process.
“The first part starts at Transportation Planning,” he said. “They look at the entire county and the congested roads ... then they prioritize ... it goes to (the Board of County Commissioners) for approval, and then they do a Roadway Conceptual Analysis … (which is) a study with a lot of public participation.
“After they go through that process, they come up with a recommended alignment and improvements,” Williams said.
In the next step, the project goes to Williams's department. A consultant is brought onboard for the design portion, which takes about two years.
Right-of-way acquisition is next, and this takes two years, as well, Williams said. Construction is the final step.
“It takes eight years, and that's if we have the money,” Williams said. “We find that it takes much longer.”
What road improvements can West Orange County residents expect to see in the coming years? Williams provided information on several projects in the Roadway Capital Improvement Program.
Improvements will be made on Ficquette Road from Summerlake Park Boulevard to south of Overstreet Road. Orange County is about to start final design to widen this segment of road from two to four lanes. Right-of-way acquisition will follow, with construction scheduled to begin in 2021.
The existing roadside ditches that carry stormwater will be replaced with a closed drainage system.
A raised median will separate opposing traffic flows, and there will be sidewalks and roadway lighting.
The project is funded through Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ INVEST Initiative and is currently estimated to cost up to about $18 million.
Several infrastructure projects have been planned along Reams Road, one of which is from Summerlake Park Boulevard to Taborfield Avenue, about 3.1 miles. This is contiguous with the current Reams Road widening that is under construction.
The county is currently conducting a Roadway Conceptual Analysis, which Williams describes as a preliminary engineering study with significant public input. Inwood Consulting Engineers Inc. is the consulting firm on this phase of the project.
The RCA will be followed by right-of-way acquisition, with construction expected to begin about 2022.
The scope of work is similar to the improvements to Ficquette Road: a divided, four-lane roadway.
This project also is funded through the Mayor’s INVEST Initiative and is currently estimated to cost up to $36 million.
Stakeholder and general public input in community meetings will play a key role in guiding the development of the study recommendations.
Reams Road is currently a two-lane facility with housing and commercial development flourishing in the surrounding areas.
COUNTY ROAD 545/AVALON ROAD
Road-widening and realignment improvements are being planned along County Road 545/Avalon Road following Orange County's approval of a preliminary design study in 2015. The Roadway Conceptual Analysis of C.R. 545/Avalon is under way and the data-collection process is approximately 60% complete, Williams said. The RCA should be done by August.
The county is getting ready to conduct an RCA for the segment of C.R. 545 between the Turnpike bridge and State Road 50.
Avalon Road is proposed as a four-lane divided roadway within a 120-foot right-of-way. The roadway segments included in this study comprise a major component of the critical roadway network required to support Orange County’s vision for the Horizon West Planning Area. The study limits began approximately 1,300 feet south of the intersection with the south leg of the proposed Loop Road, which is an existing two-lane section. The end of the study is approximately 1,300 feet north of the intersection with Schofield Road.
SAND LAKE ROAD
A Roadway Conceptual Analysis has been completed for Sand Lake Road, a 1.3-mile segment from Apopka-Vineland Road to Turkey Lake Road. A secondary road, Wallace Road from Apopka-Vineland Road to Turkey Lake Road, about 1.5 miles, will also be evaluated for conceptual improvements.
The operational capacity of the existing four-lane sections of Sand Lake Road was evaluated, and operational enhancements to reduce congestion and improve travel times and safety were recommended. This includes a multi-use shared path on the south side of the corridor, enhanced pedestrian crossing features at the Dr. Phillips Boulevard intersection and continuous eastbound/westbound outside lanes for right-turning vehicles between Rialto and Dr. Phillips Boulevard.
The final design is expected to commence this year. Funding and scheduling for construction are still in the works.
Traffic volumes establish clear segmentations of the corridor, with the heaviest traffic volumes occurring at the far eastern end of the corridor and tapering off as traffic passes the Dr. Phillips Boulevard intersection, where approximately one-third of the traffic turns right northward onto Dr. Phillips Boulevard, said the county.
The corridor currently has five-foot sidewalks located toward the back of the right-of-way. There are no dedicated bicycle facilities, such as on-street bike lanes, and the nearest transit service stop is on Turkey Lake Road.
The most congested segment of the roadway, Dr. Phillips Boulevard to the Rialto signal, is addressed through lane enhancements, median enhancements and roadside improvements including a new shared-use path.
To address the access management concern at the uncontrolled median opening at the entrances of The Fountains and Plaza Venezia, one alternative offers either a directional median opening or a new signalized intersection, which would require a future traffic signal warrant study, according to the county.
A 10-foot-wide shared-use path is being considered for the south side of the project corridor.
STONEYBROOK WEST PARKWAY
Orange County is participating in a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Stoneybrook West Parkway/Roberson Road and Windermere Road with the city of Winter Garden through an Interlocal Agreement.
The city will be responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the roundabout.
In February, the city began work on the County Road 535 widening project at the intersection of Stoneybrook West Parkway, State Road 429 and Daniels Road. This work included pavement widening, the addition of turn lanes and lighting and signalization improvements.
The city of Winter Garden funded this work, and the much-needed improvements will tie into upcoming work the Central Florida Expressway Authority will be performing on the northbound S.R. 429 on-ramp. Work will be performed by the city's contractor, Atlantic Civil Constructors Corporation.
SILVER STAR ROAD
The city of Ocoee has begun a new transportation study with local and state officials to look at ways to realign Silver Star Road to improve its function for drivers and pedestrians. The study area, also known as Franklin Street and Ocoee-Apopka Road, is between State Road 429 and Bluford Avenue.
The Florida Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over Silver Star Road (State Road 438), and the study, which will include public participation, will use FDOT-provided federal funds. It is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
MetroPlan Orlando, Central Florida's transportation planning organization, is leading the study in coordination with the cities of Ocoee and Winter Garden and the FDOT.
The realignment of Silver Star Road was a major component of the long-range vision for downtown Ocoee. In addition to removing the two-block offset at Ocoee-Apopka Road, this project would include roundabouts at two locations: Bluford Avenue and Franklin Street.
The realignment of Silver Star Road in the Ocoee-Apopka Road area would result in relocating the Franklin Street intersection further west, where it would also serve as a future terminus for an extended Oakland Avenue. The City Commission dedicated $445,000 of the General Fund Bond proceeds to paying half of the cost of a preliminary engineering design evaluation effort that would be needed for FDOT to look at alternative alignments and configurations. However, since that time, MetroPlan Orlando and the FDOT have jointly decided to first commit to doing a planning-level effort to explore the long-term needs for Silver Star Road through Ocoee.
The study is the first step in helping the city achieve its vision for its downtown revitalization, which will include enhancing connectivity and accessibility, creating a safe environment for walking and biking, establishing trail connections and identifying strategies for improved transit service.