By starting now, officials in the town of Oakland hope to get ahead of the traffic nightmare that is inevitable when the Florida Department of Transportation begins its four-and-one-half-year Florida’s Turnpike widening project.
Town Manager Steve Koontz and Public Works Director Mike Parker have been attending FDOT’s pre-construction meetings and will be sharing project schedules and other important information with residents as it is presented to them.
FDOT is widening 6.2 miles of roadway and adjoining bridges from West Colonial Drive north of Hancock Road, and this work will include bridge construction, milling, surfacing, signing, pavement marking, signalization and modifications to toll facilities. This includes the bridge on West Oakland Avenue that crosses the turnpike.
Koontz said the anticipated construction start date is Sept. 22 to demolish the Oakland Avenue bridge over the turnpike. FDOT has said it will give the town a two-week notice along with a detour plan. The bridge will be out of service for 12 months.
He said FDOT plans to do its piling work in the daylight hours but might have to do some median work at night. This will affect residents in Hull Island, Longleaf, Trailside, Oakland Trails and the new apartment complex.
Once the road is finished, FDOT will start work on the West Orange Trail pedestrian bridge. Trail traffic will be rerouted to the new road while the trail bridge it out.
“It’s definitely going to be painful,” Koontz said of the construction and detours.
PLAYGROUND ADDITIONS COMING
The town has upgraded the Speer Park playground for residents, but staff said more equipment is coming in the way of children’s fitness centers.
The new playground, with two age-appropriate pieces of play equipment, was opened to the public June 23. The existing swing set was repainted, a new border with mulch was installed, sidewalk improvements at the playgrounds were completed, a rubberized surface was added, and signage was placed.
Koontz said there was $40,000 left over after budgeting for the park improvements and there is space just west of the playground to include three fitness pieces. The GameTime playground company has quoted the town $55,000 for the additional pieces.
Commissioners voted to spend the $40,000 and allocate another $15,000.
Also on the table was a discussion of shade covers or shade sails over the playgrounds at Speer Park, as well as Pollard Park. The discussion on shade options and cost will be continued at the next Town Commission meeting.
“Shade is important,” Commissioner Mike Satterfield said. “If there isn’t shade, the kids won’t slide on (the slides). It’s too hot.”
“The staff has done a very good job of doing what we set out to do, taking the input of the people who live here; and we did what we said we were going to do,” Mayor Kathy Stark said. “It’s like when you build a house. You stand back and you go, hm, maybe we should have thought of this. … That rubber flooring, that makes all the difference in the world.”
“I think what you guys have accomplished at that park, it’s beautiful,” Satterfield said. “Kids love it.”
Phase 3 will include a butterfly garden, junior basketball court, pavilion and sidewalks to connect all the components in the park.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
• The commission approved the consent agenda, which included the following: contracting with Bike/Walk Central Florida to be part of the Best Foot Forward Pedestrian Safety Program for one year starting Oct. 1 at a cost of $5,000, allowing teachers at Oakland Avenue Charter School to receive full payout of any unused personal time off up to three days, and accepting an easement document required of Pulte Homes to complete the pedestrian/bicycle connection between the Longleaf neighborhood on West Oakland Avenue and the West Orange Trail.
• Commissioners approved the final plat for Phase 6B-2 of Oakland Park, which will have 54 single-family homes on roughly 31 acres.
• The site plan and architectural building elevations for the proposed Kiddie Academy were approved. The site for the early-learning center is at 15708 W. Colonial Drive. The center would have a capacity of between 180 and 200 students from ages 6 months to 5 years and would operate from 7 a.m. to about 5 p.m.
• The commission appointed Commissioner Sal Ramos as a voting delegate at the Florida League of Cities 95th Annual Conference in August.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.