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OCX: Parkway going over, not through Split Oak area

Posted on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Should the eastern extension of Osceola Parkway, slated to impact the Split Oak Conservation Area, bother hikers, gopher turtles and native plants and trees, the impact will be minimal and work wouldn’t start in the conservation area until 2023 at the earliest.
That was the message from Osceola County Expressway Authority Chairman Atlee Mercer at that board’s monthly meeting Tuesday.
Supporters of Split Oak have been asking for a new route for the eastern section of Osceola Parkway around the area, Mercer said.
“We’ve looked at alternatives. Engineers have determined what we’re doing is the most effective and least impactful way. We are serious about doing the road environmentally correct,” he said.
The eastern segment is the second phase of the project. The first phase would run east from Boggy Creek Road between State Road 417 and the Osceola County line to Narcoossee Road. Mercer said previously that work might begin in 2020.
The second phase, now known as W-5A2B, would curve southeast into Osceola through Split Oak and connect with spurs to two other roads: a connector into the Northeast District, the home of future development, and the proposed Northeast Connector Expressway, another road in OCX’s 2040 master plan.
Another route that was under consideration for the eastern portion ran west and south around Split Oak, but would have required relocating residents in the Southern Oaks neighborhood and required expensive right-of-way purchases that would have pushed the road’s total cost over $800 million.
On the approved route, the cost is estimated between $618 million and $647 million because of expensive right-of-way purchases from the Eagle Creek subdivision, the costs of mitigating environmental impacts and the elevation of the segment through Split Oak.
It should be much like how the Poinciana Parkway bridge was built over the Reedy Creek Swamp.
“I urge people to inspect that work,” Mercer said. “We were able to still establish a habitat underneath the bridge, and after construction we returned the area to its natural pristine state.”
St. Cloud resident John Martin spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, urging OCX to reconsider any impact to Split Oak.
“The road will devalue the land and many people are not even aware of this,” he said. “It is worth the investment not to impact the park.”
The official decision to build the road has not yet been made, although Mercer expects it to move forward.
“It’s a road that will have to be built. We need another east-west route for evacuations,” he said “Two to three million people heading west on 192 and 528 is inconceivable.”