Orange County Government, Florida

SUNRAIL OPENS WITH
WHISTLE-STOP TOUR

In 2014, Orange County celebrated a transportation milestone with transformational impact — the opening of SunRail, Central Florida’s historic commuter rail service!

Regional celebrations began in the spring with the grand opening of the new SunRail train station in the City of Winter Park. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined Congressman John Mica and Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley at the event and spoke about how this extraordinary, high-capacity transportation system is creating thousands of jobs and bringing billions of dollars in economic benefit to our region. The charming station on Park Avenue at Morse Boulevard will serve Amtrak and SunRail passengers, as well as the nearby Lynx “hub” stop.

Later in March, residents and area business owners and operators were invited to the Sand Lake Road Station Preview Celebration. Attendees toured trains and became familiar with the ticketing system, technology and platform features, as well as routes and parking at the Historic Pine Castle Station.

Central Floridians, community partners and elected officials from throughout the region celebrated the official grand opening of the new commuter rail system with a historic day-long celebration in May. The free “Whistle Stop Tour,” which was open to the public, began in Debary and ended at the Sand Lake Road Station. Mayor Jacobs was the keynote speaker and host of the historic bell ringing ceremony, which commemorated SunRail’s grand opening. Mayor Jacobs was joined by District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke, District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, District 5 Commissioner Ted Edwards and former District 6 Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell, along with regional elected officials and distinguished community leaders. Free ridership for the first two weeks drew an average of 11,200 riders a day to SunRail, shattering predictions!

SunRail will connect Deland in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County when it is fully completed in 2016. Phase 1, which spans 32 miles and comprises 12 stations, connects Debary with Sand Lake Road, near the Orlando International Airport. Construction will begin on Phase 2 next summer and will extend the route north to Deland and south into Poinciana.

SunRail runs along a 61-mile system of existing rail freight tracks in a four-county area. It is funded and supported by the Florida Department of Transportation in cooperation with the federal government and Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties, and the City of Orlando.

NEW EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY
BOARD CREATED

An expanded regional focus and new governance structure that provides accountability to the taxpayers are part of the sweeping changes brought to the governing agencies of Orange County’s toll roads in 2014. Under the stewardship of Mayor Jacobs, the new Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) has united four Central Florida counties on one board by merging the expressway authorities for Lake, Seminole, Osceola and Orange counties. The new independent locally controlled board replaces the dissolved Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

CFX was created by the Florida Legislature and signed into law in June 2014 by Gov. Rick Scott. Mayor Jacobs led the charge for the changes and new ethics standards for CFX that require new business and relationship disclosures. The new board oversees toll collections and roadway operations, and is now directly accountable to citizens. CFX uses local toll revenue to build, operate and maintain the region’s 109 miles of expressway networks.

Membership on the nine-member board is outlined by the Florida Legislature and is now comprised of six elected officials and three gubernatorial appointees, providing for direct accountability to the taxpayers. As the Mayor of Orange County, Mayor Jacobs is a member.

Citizen confidence in toll-road management had been questioned over the last few years by disclosures of illegal activities by some members of the former expressway authority. Mayor Jacobs persisted in her efforts, bolstered transparency in the management of Orange County’s toll roads and helped the state recognize the need for a new board primarily made up of elected officials.

Drivers experienced no differences due to the changeover. And the same E-PASS system, which has more than 500,000 Central Florida customers, remains in place.

GREATER ORLANDO AVIATION AUTHORITY INTERMODAL COMPLEX

As announced in July, our Orlando International Airport (OIA) will be the site for a new, high-tech intermodal transportation center, supporting air travel, ground transportation and rail service, and making OIA the first airport in Florida — and the first major U.S. international airport — to have these unique capabilities. The new intermodal transportation hub will also feature an automated people mover and new parking garage structure, and will increase efficiency and access for our 35 million OIA travelers!

The hub will also serve as a destination station for a rail travel corridor between South and Central Florida. All Aboard Florida, the intra-state system connecting Orlando to Miami, has a tentative plan to connect to the airport’s new South Terminal.

Regional commuters will have a complete network of transportation options available at the site. The project, anticipated to generate thousand of construction jobs and millions of dollars in economic development for Orange County, is the result of a unique partnership between Orange County, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and the state of Florida. Together their vision is to transform the regions’ transportation assets into a high-functioning system for citizens and guests travelling to and from Florida. The project is scheduled to be ready for passenger service by 2017.

ALL ABOARD FLORIDA

Plans for the All Aboard Florida passenger rail service — the first express intercity passenger rail between Orlando and Miami — are continuing. All Aboard Florida will also connect to SunRail, providing business and leisure passengers a convenient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to travel between South Florida and Central Florida. In addition to the All Aboard station at OIA, more stations are proposed in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with passenger service projected to begin in 2016 between Miami and West Palm Beach and in 2017 to Orlando. Florida East Coast Industries, LLC, owns the rail corridor and is developing All Aboard Florida. It will be the first privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States.

I-4 TRANSFORMATION BEGINS

Design plans for I-4 Ultimate, the incredibly complex and comprehensive transformation of Interstate 4, were revealed in 2014, along with a plan to begin construction before the end of March 2015. The $2.3 billion major revamp involves rebuilding 21 miles of I-4 from west of Kirkman Road in Orange County to east of State Road 434 in Seminole County.

A project of the Florida Department of Transportation, the design includes the creation of four new express lanes, multiple new bridges, pedestrian bridges and green space. The end result will be a more aesthetic driving experience with landscaping, fountains, downtown bridge lighting and artwork. The six-year project includes reconstructing 15 major interchanges, widening 13 bridges, completely replacing 74 bridges and adding 53 new bridges. The project is projected to create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs at the peak of construction with positions ranging from engineers and designers to managers and construction workers of all types.

Commuters can find help developing alternate travel routes or information about public transportation on the I-4 Ultimate website.

WEKIVA PARKWAY

Hundreds of citizens provided input on construction plans for the Wekiva Parkway during open community meetings held in 2014. In addition to staff presentations and models, high-tech “Drive-through” animations of construction helped citizens see parkway elevations and access points for each section to be built of the 25-mile toll road. The Wekiva Parkway is the northwest portion of SR 429 and will connect to SR 417 to finalize a beltway around Orlando. It will make travel easier and more convenient through Lake, Orange and Seminole counties, reducing traffic congestion on SR 441, SR 46 and other roads.

From her earliest days on the Wekiva River Basin Commission and since being elected Mayor of Orange County, the Wekiva Parkway has remained one of Mayor Jacobs’ top priorities. With the project plans now complete, the Wekiva Parkway is being heralded as a model of transportation planning in an environmentally sensitive area — the Wekiva River Basin. Development of the Wekiva Parkway includes setting aside more than 3,400 acres of land for conservation, plus building numerous wildlife bridges to reduce accidents. Much of the roadway will be elevated to provide safe passage for bears and other roaming wildlife. The goals of the project include not only protecting wildlife in the roadway footprint, but also maintaining wildlife habitat connectivity between conservation lands.

The project is a cooperative effort between the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise and the neighboring counties. The smart-growth highway project is providing long-term economic impact, along with thousands of jobs.

As a bonus to citizens, FDOT will build a multi-use trail along portions of the Parkway for hikers and bikers. The Wekiva Parkway Trail will tie into a proposed extension of the West Orange Trail in Orange County, the Lake-Wekiva Trail in Lake County and a planned extension of the Seminole-Wekiva Trail in Seminole County. The trail will cross over a new, high-profile bridge over the Wekiva River.