Decisions on a proposed route for the Osceola Parkway Extension were recently approved by Osceola and Orange counties, moving the key transportation project a step closer to reality, a press release stated.
Building this road creates an essential link in a future beltway. The need was established by the Osceola Expressway Authority and confirmed when the project was passed on to the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX). Leaders have taken a regional approach, getting ahead of growth with prudent planning of a future beltway that will connect Osceola County to the rest of the region.
The Osceola Parkway extension brings significant positives to many stakeholders, including environmentalists, area residents, commuters and those in the future that find new economic opportunities linked to it. Among the positives:
• The chosen route will use 60 acres of the Split Oak Forest, with 100 set aside as a buffer. These 160 acres are at the Southern periphery of the approximately 1,700 acres of the existing land owned by Orange and Osceola counties, and managed by the Florida Wildlife Commission.
• In exchange, 1,550 acres are being donated and will be placed into conservation.
• This donation of land nearly doubles the size of Split Oak and is about 10 times the amount of land utilized for the parkway project. This is a 10 to 1 gain compared to the acres impacted. The new property is adjacent to other conservation lands in the area – Moss Park and Isle of Pine Preserve.
• Had this route not been chosen, the 1,550 acres would have been forfeited for conservation, with much of those acres slated to be developed into more houses.
• One of the original alternates had the road going through the middle of Split Oak – a much more disruptive route.
• Some of the 1,550 acres will need restoration because of historic agricultural use. A mitigation plan is in the works, even as the total acreage serves as an important buffer around Split Oak and other surrounding environmental properties.
• The expectation from the county is that the new land will help in the management of all the environmental lands in the area – creating opportunities for new wildlife corridors while preserving existing ones.
• Additionally, a developer moved a water treatment plant that was to be constructed next to Split Oak – on environmentally valuable uplands/pine and scrub.
• Another 3 million square feet of commercial and industrial property that is not part of the donated 1,550 acres (but was to the South of Split Oaks’ border) will not be developed as a result of the decisions on the route for the new road.
• The chosen route will have much less effect on existing homes – as well as developments already approved. Going through those developments would have been much more costly.
• Lastly, the county will work closely with CFX and Orange County to ensure that mitigation, restoration, and management monies are set aside for the additional 1,550 acres of new conservation lands.
It is also important to note that the project does not set a precedent, as some have stated in discussions during the approval process for the road, county officials said. State statute allows for linear facilities such as public transportation corridors through conservation lands and outlines a process required to permit the public transportation corridor through a Florida Communities Trust (FCT) site.
The next step will be an FCT evaluation of the request.
The original purpose of the Osceola Parkway Extension has often been overlooked during these discussions. Central Florida desperately needs a road on the east side that will make it easier for Osceola County residents to travel to Orlando and other parts of Central Florida, the press release stated.
This roadway project will move forward as an essential part of the future beltway around Osceola County.