Study team to narrow alignment list for planned East Osceola Parkway Extension
By Tiffanie Reynolds
With the central corridor of the proposed East Osceola Parkway Extension selected, the Planned Development and Environment study team went back to the public July 10 to narrow the alternatives for the east and west ends of the project.
Residents from both Osceola and Orange County attended the public open house meeting for the proposed Osceola Parkway East extension at Osceola Heritage Park on July 10. Close-up maps of alternatives for both the east and west end of the extension were available to view, welcoming residents to look the progress of the project at their own pace.
Taking the environment as well as current and future subdivisions into consideration, the team has selected five alternatives, or alignments, for both ends of the selected central corridor and will take several months to select the best alternative. It was one of many meetings to solicit the public’s input. The public hearing for the approved final alignment of the extension will be presented in mid-2015.
“One of the things that people need to understand is that it’s going to take months to finally decide which of the five is going to be a better one. After we get the input from (the July 10 meeting), then we’ll evaluate that, we’ll evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each, and I would say that it would be closer to the end of the year before we have what we would consider a preferred alternative that we would take to OCX (Osceola County Expressway Authority) for their consideration,” said Paul Cherry, project manager and consultant from Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
According to the Project Development and Environment study team, these alternatives are concepts. Others may be considered after the team reviews comments. Alternative alignments for the west end of the extension focus on the proposed Boggy Creek Connector, connecting the East Osceola Parkway Extension to State Road 417. It is proposed to begin at either Boggy Creek Road off of the existing East Osceola Parkway or Ward Road. With each alternative, the connector moves northward and becomes less invasive to the interchange on S.R. 417. Two alternatives will directly impact homes within Wyndham Lakes and three will affect homes on Ward Road and Boggy Creek Enclave. Total cost for each proposed alternative ranges from $300 to $455 million.
Alternatives on the east end of the project focus on a corner of Split Oak Preserve, with each alternative going farther north into the preserve. All five start at the intersection just north of Fells Landing and Narcoossee Road, with the first alternative alignment missing Split Oaks completely and the fifth going into the most sensitive area of the preserve. Out of all of the proposed alignments, only one would require home relocation, but nearly all five have moderate to high impacts on wetlands inside and outside Split Oaks Preserve. Most proposals also would impact the south portion of Eagle Creek Village, another area zoned for conservation. Total cost for these alternative alignments ranges between $201 and $249 million.
Besides the extension’s potential impact on areas marked for conservation, residents and developers at the meeting also expressed concerns about the extension’s impact on their neighborhoods. Those living on both the Orange and Osceola County side of the project looked at the plans with a skeptical attitude at the meeting, and many expressed their opposition to the project during the team’s question and answer section of the presentation.
“We want to know how it will affect the neighborhood and the area in the future,” said Ligia Irado, who lives near the proposed extension in Osceola County.
The two biggest concerns are potentially falling housing values and the impact the expressway could have on future development. Many in the audience expressed frustration after the team’s presentation on how they can’t sell their homes because the potential extension will affect their market-selling price. A representative of Meritage Homes, developer for the Fells Landing subdivision on the east end of the extension, said that the developer has already begun building model homes, and, if the team doesn’t stay in close contact with Meritage Homes and other developers in the area, the proposed final alignment would have new subdivisions to negotiate through by this time next year.
As currently proposed, part of the Osceola Parkway East Extension will be a toll road. But the study team has made sure to pick final alignments that won’t put toll portions of the extension in the middle of neighborhoods.