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S.R. 417 widening project raises questions in Winter Springs

A miscommunication about who controls which sections of Central Florida’s sprawling toll road system has turned into a discussion about what negative impacts could hit Winter Springs if a proposed expansion of State Road 417 goes forward.

A project to widen S.R. 417 from its current four lanes to eight lanes from the county line between Orange County and Seminole County stretching north to where the road meets Lake Jesup bridge is in the preliminary design phase by the Florida Department of Transportation. The widened road would match the width of the section of S.R. 417 that’s already been widened in Orange County, where the road meets the Seminole County border.

The widening would also expand every overpass between the county line and Lake Jesup, but would not include the Lake Jesup Bridge.

“That is the epitome of a choke point,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon said about the road narrowing at the bridge.

Photo courtesy of FDOT

Noise from the expansion and the narrowing of the road just before the Lake Jesup Bridge dominated discussions at Winter Springs’ most recent City Commission meeting on Dec. 13, after Will Hawthorne, director of engineering at the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), spoke about the toll road operator’s upcoming projects, though the S.R. 417 expansion was not among them.

“My district 2 has residents on both the east side and west side of the 417,” Cannon said. “They’re extremely concerned about noise. It makes sense to me to build up to Red Bug. But the distance between Red Bug and to go out 2 more miles or a mile and a half whatever it is, up to 434 makes no sense…It’s going to be a choke point, more traffic, more noise. ”

The bridge issue in particular aroused the ire of multiple commissioners.

“I am concerned about how you’re going to take [the proposed widened portion of S.R. 417] down to four without improving and widening bridges or building additional bridges, which is a whole other can of worms.”

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Hawthorne said that noise should be addressed in the planning phase.

“It’s a requirement that agencies like us and [Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise] they have to do noise studies whenever they do a capacity improvement or add lanes,” he said. “That’s something they’ll have to do when they get to that point.”

It was clarified that while CFX operates the middle section of S.R. 417 between International Drive and the Orange/Seminole County line, it does not operate the southern connector portion of S.R. 417 from Interstate 4 to International Drive, or the section in question from the Orange/Seminole County line northward to where it rejoins Interstate 4 in Sanford.

“Our system prior to 2014 was really just in Orange County. Anything outside of that, the Turnpike, [S.R.]417, parts of [S.R.]429 that are outside of Orange County were done by the [Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise].“

The segment in discussion was the center of controversy before when in 2015 a widening of S.R. 417 was proposed between Aloma Avenue and S.R. 434 that would have cost $88 million and added express lanes with additional tolls on top of existing tolls. That plan was killed off in early 2016.

Cannon said he would like to reach out to State Rep. David Smith and State Sen. Jason Brodeur to see if they could try to “torpedo” the newest expansion plan.

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