Folks in both Orange and Lake counties are rejoicing at the paved completion of Schofield Road — the east-west connector from Avalon Road, in Horizon West/Winter Garden, to U.S. 27, in Clermont. The 6.5-mile road, now fully paved between Orange and Lake counties, is saving commuters from miles of driving and traffic headaches by avoiding the heavily traveled West Colonial Drive to the north and U.S. Highway 192 to the south.
It’s a winding, rural drive through the countryside at present — but it won’t remain that way, as development projects already are expected in the area. Future plans include a sports complex, hotels, 170,000-square-foot medical plaza, Valencia College campus, apartments and thousands of homes.
Lake County hired Ally Engineering Service to handle the project of modernizing Schofield Road. Cemex and Lake County partnered for the project, and construction began in October 2021. Cemex contributed about $15 million, said Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks.
A majority of the road lies within Lake County. Only a few miles run through Orange County.
Schofield previously was a clay road that had been paved only in sections. Running enthusiasts and high school cross-country teams have been using a portion of it, known as the Clay Loop. Some people expressed mixed emotions on the paving because of its popularity with runners, but Parks said most of that trail was saved.
When the opening of Schofield was announced on Facebook, many people shared their excitement:
“This should help me get to work faster,” one person wrote.
“This will save a lot of time for anyone hopping over to U.S. (Highway) 27 from Horizon West,” a real estate agent wrote.
“Took nine minutes to drive, lessened a trip to a point north of where it comes in to (U.S. Highway) 27 by 10 minutes,” another resident said. “This is huge for those of us near Schofield.”
Former Orange County District 1 Commissioner Scott Boyd commented as well: “Great to see one of three east-west corridors connecting Lake and Orange (counties) open. Creating regional connectivity with commissioners Sean M. Parks (Lake County) and Betsy VanderLey (former Orange County commissioner).”
The bad news, to some folks, is the road is only two lanes. The good news, according to Parks, is plans already are in place for it to be widened within a year, starting on the Lake County end.
“The rest of the portion will be widened again; it just depends on how quickly the growth comes,” he said.
“That widening will be driven by impact fees,” Betsy VanderLey said.
VanderLey’s father is the late Jon VanderLey, the Oakland mayor who created the West Orange/South Lake Transportation Task Force in 1999 so the two counties could work together to try to identify more east-west roadway connectors between them other than Highway 192, Colonial Drive and a few dirt roads.
While in office, Boyd picked up where Jon VanderLey left off and began working with Parks to identify several possible routes. Among them were New Independence Parkway, Schofield Road and the future Sawgrass Bay Boulevard and toll road State Road 516.
Parks also is a member of the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which is responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of toll roads in five Greater Orlando counties.
“I think (Schofield Road) will provide relief for Hartwood Marsh Road,” he said. “There are two or three other roads that are planned, and this will certainly help with the relief; it will be even better. This is a good first start.”
“I appreciate both former commissioners,” Parks said. “The Lake County side wouldn’t have been able to have that without their help.”
Betsy VanderLey appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with Lake County to bring relief to residents traveling between the two counties.
Between West Colonial Drive and U.S. Highway 192 are five opportunities for east-west connectivity. To the south of Colonial is Hartwood Marsh Road, which already is in use. To the south of that is New Independence Parkway, which will be called Wellness Way once it reaches the Lake County line. That road is under construction and will be done by the end of the year.
Further south is the recently opened Schofield Road.
South of that will be the new Lake/Orange Expressway (State Road 516) toll road. It currently is in the design phase, and construction should begin this year on the first phase, which will begin in Lake County. It will be a four-lane limited-access highway that will run between S.R. 429 and U.S. Highway 27. It is expected to open in 2026.
Sawgrass Bay Boulevard will be located to the south of the future toll road. Parks said the Lake County portion of this road is finished and it’s now up to Orange County to complete the connection.
“For sure, these corridors will take a lot of pressure off the current corridors,” Parks said.
“Now you have a pretty seamless drive from 27 down to the 429,” Boyd said.