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CFX to assist Osceola in building toll roads

Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm

The Central Florida Expressway Authority will help Osceola County build toll roads such as the  Poinciana Parkway, which opened Saturday. Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Airrington stands on the parkway during its building phase.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority will help Osceola County build toll roads such as the Poinciana Parkway, which opened Saturday. Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington stands on the parkway during its building phase.

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Osceola County Express­way Authority Chairman Atlee Mercer may have learned how $2.5 billion in road projects is going to get financed and built.
Osceola County Manager Don Fisher recently laid out the groundwork of terms for a deal that would allow Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) to include OCX’s future toll road plans into CFX’s 2040 master plan. It includes an eastern Osceola Parkway extension to Narcoossee Road, which then meets Florida’s Turnpike to the south and then west to Poinciana.
CFX will study the feasibility of building those roads. Under the plan, it has 120 days to secure a consultant who will then have 12 months to complete an evaluation. What is deemed feasible will become part of CFX’s five-year work plan.
Mercer said the agreement is a big step for an organization with no office or phone number.
“But we have an email address!” he joked. “We’ve functioned at the good graces of other people for a long time. This model allows us to continue to function. It’s worked all along and I’m willing to take a risk to make it work further.”
County commissioners and the OCX board endorsed the plan unanimously. Commissioner Fred Hawkins, who represents Osceola on the CFX board, said the agreement moves the county “years forward” in its transportation master plan.
“I have all the faith in CFX’s organization to get this done,” he said.
Fisher said the timing was perfect for this agreement, since OCX had just recently started looking for a partner with the equity to build future roads, money the county authority won’t have for a while with just the Poinciana Parkway, which opens April 30, collecting revenue.
“That road is years from generating excess revenue to put toward other segments,” he said. “It’s very rare for CFX to not build something that makes it into their work plan. They have the ability to come forward with their capacity as a toll road system provider and accelerate some of these segments we’re waiting on.”
Fisher said CFX Executive Director Laura Kelley concluded the regional board could make this a work.
“We negotiated this quickly because CFX saw an opportunity,” he said.
The county or CFX can terminate their agreement if it doesn’t move along, with Osceola paying CFX for its expenses. OCX will continue to exist, rather than be folded into CFX as planned in a prior regional agreement.
“I see them as the contract manager on the county’s behalf, overseeing what CFX is doing,” Fisher said.
Mercer said he assumed CFX would be one of the interested parties when the board took its search for equity partners to the street.
“A lot of groups build really nice roads that actually make money. Not a lot of them do that as well as CFX,” he said. “And they have the money, which is a dangerous place to be. This is in everybody’s best interest to do this. The opportunity for CFX and OCX to work together is remarkable.”