Oviedo is moving forward with widening State Road 426/County Road 419, a project that will impact local businesses in the historic downtown area.
The Florida Department of Transportation started work this month on widening the 1.4 mile stretch of road from Pine Avenue to Adeline B. Tinsley Way.
During an open house presentation on Jan. 13, an FDOT spokesperson said that the main reason for the expansion was to create a safer road with smoother traffic.
As the population in Oviedo and surrounding cities grows, traffic is increasingly clogging the two-lane road. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oviedo’s population increased from 33,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in 2020.
Charles Suppler, the FDOT community outreach specialist, said that this corridor experiences an average of 12,000 vehicles per day and that number is expected to increase.
The project, slated for completion in summer 2024, will create a four-lane roadway with two lanes in each direction, a raised median, 5-foot sidewalks — a foot bigger than the standard ones — bicycle lanes, and new stormwater ponds to improve water quality and flood control.
The widening is expected to cost $20 million with the state covering half the cost, the federal government covering 13% and the City of Oviedo covering 37%.
“Everybody is glad that it’s happening,” Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said. “For 20 years nobody has been willing to invest in this entire corridor that used to be the downtown of Oviedo.”
She said that FDOT told the city long ago that it was going to expand the road, and FDOT knocked down all the buildings that were in the area to open the way for the new road.
“Everything has just been sitting there, crumbling right before our own very eyes,” Sladek said.
Impact on businesses started long ago
She said that one of the buildings that had to be torn down for the road widening of Broadway Street was the old Town House Restaurant, which had been in that location since the 1950s. The business had to move in 2014 to its North Central Avenue location to make way for the anticipated road widening.
Another local business affected by the road widening is Superior Auto & Truck Service, which is located on Geneva Drive.
The owner of the business, Jay Spadaro, said the road work is blocking the entrance of his business. He said he is waiting for answers from FDOT on how they are going to fix the issue.
“This morning they said that they were only going to block my entrance for an hour and they are just now leaving (5 p.m.),” Spadaro said. “So you can do the math there.”
He said that he understands that the workers were just doing their job, but he knows that this is far from over.
“This is just the beginning — the inconveniences are going to come,” Spadaro said. “They don’t care about small businesses, they only care about the deep-pocket ones.”
A local event that will be affected by this construction is the Oviedo Farmers Market. Market Manager, Connor DiMatteo said he expects smaller turnout in upcoming months because the road work is eating up to 3 feet into their market space. He had to reconfigure the market in November so it could be located behind the Historic Lawton House instead of in front of it.
“We expect probably a little bit of a decrease in the number of people that attend our market every month,” DiMatteo said. “Hopefully, coming up in April, the market will be twice a month and that’s one of the ways we are trying to curb our impact from the roadway expansion.”
DiMatteo, also a member of the Oviedo Sustainability Task Force board, said that while some trees will be taken down because of the expansion, the city’s tree bank will save the day.
He said that a tree bank is a rule that when the city removes a tree, it will plant as many trees as are necessary to equal the production of carbon dioxide that the torn-down tree provided, addressing the loss of the half-century-old oak trees there.
“A lot of people can’t believe they are taking down several hundred trees and while it is a concern, especially in the near future, it’s not as bad as it sounds because they will be replanted,” DiMatteo said. “It’s on the budget, and it’s accounted for as a part of the general master plan on where we’re going to continue to replant these trees and make up for those losses.”
Sladek also said that while the people in Oviedo are looking forward to seeing this project happen, she wishes that FDOT would have had more frequent meetings to address people’s concerns.
She uses her bike as a way of transportation, and she said she thinks that the bike lanes that would be added to this project will be too narrow and will make the bikers feel insecure.
“It is a shame that they have input opportunities so infrequently, or in ways that people don’t register their inputs,” Sladek said. “So here we are, they are going to put two miles of bike lanes that probably nobody will use.”
FDOT Public Information Director Jessica Ottaviano said that wider bike lanes probably won’t be approved because they do not fit the standard guidelines. She said that they always try to hear people’s concerns on their projects.
“We take all the comments and feedback, we look and see if there are any tweaks that we can do to accommodate these requests, or how can we address the concerns,” Ottaviano said. “In some cases, we have some wiggle room, and then in some cases, we have the engineering justifications as to why we can’t.”
FDOT said drivers can expect lane closures between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Friday.