With school set to resume next week, some Horizon West residents are worried traffic in their community is going to get much worse.
Newbury Park residents and their neighbors gathered around small lunch tables at Sunset Park Elementary School Thursday, Aug. 1, to hear the latest on what Orange County officials intend to do to address traffic problems in the Lakeside Village area.
According to District 1 County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, the county started addressing complaints from residents about a year ago, specifically on Fitzgerald Butler Road, McCormack McRae Way and the intersection of Silverlake Park Drive and County Road 535.
Since then, the county has been talking with residents of Newbury Park and exploring possible solutions.
“We’re trying to come up with a solution that inconveniences the fewest people,” VanderLey said. “But any way we do this, any way we cut this — I’m not going to kid you — somebody is going to get inconvenienced.”
High traffic volume and speeding complaints spurred the county to conduct a study on Fitzgerald Butler Road and McCormack McRae Way. That study concluded that although most cars on the roads traveled at the posted speed limit, the road averages a high number of vehicles.
According to Jerald Marks Jr., project manager in the Orange County Traffic Engineering Division, the study found a high average of 1,100 vehicles traveled on Fitzgerald Butler Road and McCormack McRae Way daily.
In light of these numbers, county officials went into the community for feedback on possible solutions to the traffic. They explored many options but were limited by road conditions of approval put forth in the Horizon West Specific Area Plan that only can be changed by the developer.
Community members fear traffic will get worse with Bay Lake Elementary students returning to school and Castleview Elementary opening.
Horizon West resident Dayna Gout is a former teacher who moved to the Horizon West area from Ocoee seven years ago. She said her main concern is the safety of the children who will be in the area during times of heavy traffic.
“It’s a safety issue,” Gout said. “People are angry. The rage on 535 (is) increasing every day.”
So far, Orange County officials have taken steps to combat issues caused by the high volume of traffic. Last month, they modified the signal at the intersection of Silverlake Park Drive and C.R. 535.
Currently, officials intend to modify the roundabout connecting Reams Road and Silverlake Park Drive. The one-lane roundabout will be adjusted to accommodate large traffic volumes by creating a “free-flow” continuous right turn from Reams Road onto Silverlake Park Drive.
It also will temporarily convert Gold Creek Trail to a one-way road. If successful, this change could become permanent.
According to county documents, both of these changes will encourage the use of Silverlake Park Drive to access C.R. 535 and are expected to be completed in the spring of 2020.
In the long term — with a timeline of three to five years — the county will increase space for left turns at C.R. 535 and Silverlake Park Drive, which should encourage the use of the road to access Reams Road.
Installing speed humps to calm traffic still is an option that county officials will consider going forward, pending results from traffic monitoring during school time.
“(The plan) going forward is to implement what we have and to monitor that it has the effect that we hope it does,” VanderLey said.