The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved the Wekiva Parkway, a 27-mile toll road that would complete the beltway around metropolitan Orlando. The FHWA in May 2012 issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), accepting the location and design concept. The approval means the Proposed Build Alternative from the Wekiva Parkway Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study can move toward design and construction.
The Wekiva Parkway PD&E Study was initiated in 2005 under the joint management of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District Five. The Expressway Authority and FDOT have been working with local governments, state agencies such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, environmental interest groups, and federal agencies to make the Wekiva Parkway a reality.
The activities of the PD&E Study addressed recommendations outlined in the Final Report of the Wekiva River Basin Coordinating Committee and set forth in the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act. The Coordinating Committee's March 2004 report followed two years of intensive community input. Details of the Coordinating Committee recommendations and other Wekiva information are available on the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council website at www.ecfrpc.org.
The expressway would begin at the planned SR 429 (Daniel Webster Western Beltway) and SR 414 (John Land Apopka Expressway) interchange at US 441 in Apopka, go north and then east along the current SR 46 alignment and connect to Interstate 4 in Sanford. The project also includes widening and realignment of a segment of SR 46, which would begin at US 441 and SR 46 near Mount Dora, go east past Round Lake Road, and connect to the Wekiva Parkway in northwest Orange County. The Act requires that SR 46 in east Lake County west of the Wekiva River not be a continuous roadway.
As recommended by the Lake County Commission, the Wekiva River Basin Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (in keeping with the mandates of the Act), the plans in east Lake County eliminate SR 46 as a through road from the Neighborhood Lakes area eastward to the Wekiva River. Subsequent financial analysis determined the parkway would only be feasible to build and operate as a tolled facility.
Citizens in the east Lake County area who live and work along existing SR 46 expressed concerns over paying a toll for a local trip. In mid 2009, the Expressway Authority and FDOT began analyzing options to provide a non-tolled service road in east Lake County along the Wekiva Parkway route. In response to those citizen concerns, a service road concept has been developed and incorporated as part of the PD&E Study.
While the required planning process for the parkway is still underway, several key factors of the Act have been accomplished. In September 2008, the Expressway Authority and several agency partners finalized the purchase of Pine Plantation, a 385-acre parcel in Orange County, the third largest conservation parcel identified for acquisition. This, along with the 1,619-acre Neighborhood Lakes parcel in Lake and Orange Counties that was acquired in 2007, are important for environmental conservation and limiting development in the project area. Thus far, more than 3,400 acres have been set aside for conservation.
A project milestone was achieved when the Expressway Authority and FDOT conducted public hearings for the proposed improvements in Orange, Lake and Seminole Counties for the Wekiva Parkway PD&E Study. Hearings were held each of the three counties: Orange County, Tuesday, October 26, 2010 in Apopka; Lake County, Wednesday, October 27, 2010 in Mt. Dora; and Seminole County, Thursday, October 28, 2010 in Sanford. Over 1200 interested individuals signed in to view the displays and participate in the formal hearing process.
Questions or comments about these projects should be directed to:
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