Signed Expressway Authority Bill starts clock for Osceola road projects
By Tiffanie Reynolds
With the Central Florida Expressway Authority signed into existence by Gov. Rick Scott on June 20, Osceola County is going full steam ahead with its expressway projects to make its 2018 deadline.
Osceola County Expressway Authority Chairman Atlee Mercer said on top of construction for Poinciana Parkway, the authority also is in the middle of three
Project, Development and Environment studies (PD&E) for East Osceola Parkway Extension, the Southport Connector and the Interstate 4 Connector. Under the new Central Florida Expressway Authority, joining Osceola, Orange, Seminole and Lake Counties into one board, the Osceola Expressway Authority has until Dec. 31, 2018, before it and all of their projects are absorbed into the Central Florida Expressway Authority.
“I think it’s a good time frame for us to sort out what we can and cannot do in the near future, and identify things that are financially viable. If they are, we state our case to the Central Florida Expressway Authority that we should do them. Or, that we can start them,” said Mercer.
Osceola County, like the other member counties, already has joined the Central Florida Expressway Authority, with County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins sitting as the county representative on the board. Mercer said that the board is scheduled to meet within the next two weeks, where it should be adopting Osceola County Expressway Authority’s 2040 plan.
Currently, the Osceola County Expressway Authority has spent $7-8 million on the PD&E studies for East Osceola Parkway, Southport Connector and the I-4 Connector from Poinciana Parkway. These studies help the authority determine what it would need to make these projects happen, what would be the most likely road alignment and what would be the cost for these projects, making the completed studies a guide for construction in the future.
“Eventually, as we get folded into the Central Florida Expressway Authority, certainly if we’ve done a lot of good work making those analyses and have hard data as to what could and couldn’t be done, it would certainly make their job easier,” said Mercer.
Scott signing the Central Florida Expressway Authority comes after years of debate and negotiations by county government officials and district representatives and senators of Osceola County throughout the authority’s creation. While some of the details in the bill had to be compromised, Mercer and others on the Osceola County Expressway Authority board said they were pleased with the approved bill.