Oseola County FL's Poinciana Parkway after DB, CM, $s for Feb 2013 groundbreak
By Peter Samuel
2012-10-01: Jeff Jones acting executive director of the Oseola County Expressway Authority (OCX) is aiming to break ground on his first tollroad, the Poinciana Parkway about February next year. The project is already delayed five years. Designs were done, environmental permits were obtained, and agreements with local government were in place back in 2006 and the tollroad was due to be built and operated as a private pike by Avatar, the major developer of Poinciana, 70k population on the southern fringe of the Orlando area.
But the housing bubble burst, and following great recession killed the prospects for private financing. Avatar said they couldn't justify the tollroad to lenders and pulled out in 2010.
At the same time the county had successfully petitioned the state to create a county toll expressway authority to undertake the staged development of a toll beltway of which the Poinciana Parkway was logically a part.
In an agreement approved recently by the Oseola county commissioners, developer Avatar has handed to the expressway authority its Poinciana Parkway permits, designs, and right of way.
RFQ soon, CM sought
Jones has the authority to go out for a Request for Qualifications for a design-build contractor and to recruit a construction manager (CM) and hopes to issue a formal Request for Proposals early November. He wants to have a contract signed in December.
He is also working on presentations to lenders and a trip to New York City so the Authority can issue its first toll revenue bonds.
As conceived originally by Avatar this was going to be 2x2 lanes divided expressway with several interchanges, all in a right of way to allow an eventual 2x3 mainline lanes plus a 2-lane transitway. And there was a split at its southeastern end so it involved some 13 miles of construction and about $300m.
County goes with stripped down phase one
The wide right of way is being kept for eventual widening into a grand urban tollroad, but given the uncertainties of the economy the initial stage of the Parkway is scaled back to the absolute minimum - a single 2-lane roadway of 9.7 miles length with intersections at grade.
All will be located within the right of way to allow upgrades to full divided expressway with grade separations when traffic warrants. It will be strictly access controlled, no frontages, and designed for 70mph when it becomes one of two roadways. But as a two-way 2-laner it will be signed for 55mph.
There will be a single all-electronic toll point.
Jones says he hopes this first stage can be built for under $80 million.
4 miles of bridging
Major design challenge is a 4 mile stretch through the wetlands of Reedy Creek. Environmental permits obtained by Avatar allow a mix of causeway and bridging.
Jones says his latest advice is that it may be just as economical to do it all-bridge - which would also reduce environmental impacts further.
The county is already doing test drilling in the swamp to get an idea of the depth of pilings that will be needed.
The greater the depth of pilings needed the longer the spans.
Florida is so full of lakes and wetlands like this "there's plenty of expertise around" on such bridging, Jones notes.
Purpose and need
The immediate justification for the Poinciana Parkway is to provide a more direct connection between 55,000 people living in Poinciana and the county seat and shopping in Kissimmee to the north and Disney and associated employment centers to the northwest.
Poinciana is presently a peninsula in the middle of unbridged wetlands to the west, north and northeast. Downtown Orlando is 25 miles north as geese fly, the airport some 20 miles and Disney about 15 miles.
But circuitous land routes are much further.
The first stage provides a direct shot to US17/92.
Eventually part of a belt route
Longer term (see map headed Master Plan) the Parkway is envisaged as just one part of a belt route describing a semi-circle around the southern portion of the Orlando metro area, allowing expressway speeds from I-4 near the 429 Western Expressway interchange near Disney going counterclockwise south of the huge Lake Tohopekaliga across Florida's Turnpike and arcing north in the direction of FL417 and the east side of Orlando International Airport.
Jacobs traffic and revenue forecasts
There's a traffic and revenue study from Jacobs.
It finds the strength of the Parkway in its more direct routing as compared to alternatives because of its bridge over the wetlands.
But major uncertainties arise from the weakness of the economy. Median housing values in Oseola county are only 43% of 2006 values. Foreclosures are one in 127 houses, versus one in 187 in the state as a whole, and about 1 in 400 nationwide.
Vehicle miles traveled in the county between 2005 and 2010 is down too, despite population growth.
The study assumes a recovery by 2015 when the Parkway opens but slower population growth and travel than in the past.
Of course the numbers and the dollars might be much bigger if it was part of a belt route.
For a start it's just a local connector. That's all they can take to the banks.
But it gets something started. And they can grow it as the demand develops.