Winter Springs and Oviedo have a clearer picture of what the expansion will look like that will double the size of State Road 417 south of Lake Jesup in Seminole County.
The road, which comprises 55 miles of the beltway around metro Orlando, cuts across the serpentine dividing line between Oviedo and Winter Springs. At several points Oviedo’s western boundary stretches west across the road and Winter Springs’ eastern boundary reaches east across it.
“My district 2 has residents on both the east side and west side of the 417,” Winter Springs Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon said. “They’re extremely concerned about noise.”
In response to concerns voiced by the Winter Springs City Commission about the noise of a freeway with twice as many lanes and an abrupt narrowing down of lanes at the Lake Jesup bridge, Florida’s Turnpike Authority sent project manager Snehal Ambare to talk about the plans for the expansion Monday.
The gist: between the Orange/Seminole County line and S.R. 434, S.R. 417 will expand from four lanes to eight, and replace or expand the three overpass bridges at S.R. 426, Red Bug Lake Road and S.R. 434, plus adding more entrance and exit lanes and bike lanes on overpass bridges. Noise-stopping walls are being studied for certain sections. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and take four years to complete.
Noise reduction and traffic flow discussed
The noise issue ignited the most discussion at the meeting, with fears of potentially twice as many cars in the coming years causing noise to echo through neighborhoods surrounding the 417 corridor. A preliminary study had already been performed by the Florida Department of Transportation in 2016 that determined a potential location for a noise-reducing wall along the west side of S.R. 417 where it abuts the Chelsea Woods and Seneca Bend neighborhoods between Winter Springs Boulevard and the Cross Seminole Trail. But Commissioners feared that might not be enough.
“We don’t want to be cast aside because of some arbitrary DOT criteria on sound abatement,” Cannon said, opining that the wall should at least be expanded north to cover more area.
Mayor Kevin McCann pointed toward more Oviedo residents moving in just east of the soon-to-be-expanded road, which could potentially contribute to more complicated traffic issues where roads meet the S.R. 417.
“They have already approved hundreds of apartments that are going to be lining right near that intersection going all the way down between Red Bug and Winter Springs Boulevard,” he said. “We just need to be ready for that ever-increasing traffic on Broadway (Street).”
But where the expansion stops was also a big point of contention for the commission after they learned of the project’s intended scope in December and January.
“That is the epitome of a choke point,” Cannon said in January about the road narrowing just before the Lake Jesup Bridge, which has been four lanes since it was completed in 1994.
That provided possibly the most revealing moment of the presentation, when Ambare revealed plans for a bridge widening that will connect with all of the expansion south of it.
“That project will already be in design by the time this completes construction,” Ambare said.
The bridge expansion, expected to be largely built by expanding inward into the area between the parallel northbound and southbound bridge spans, would begin the design phase in 2025 with expected construction beginning in 2029.
In light of the five-year gap between expected construction starts between the two projects, that wasn’t fast enough for Commissioner Rob Elliott.
“I would just urge you to do it faster if you can,” he said.
Public information meetings are expected to be held this June to help decide critical elements of the expansion plan. A virtual meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 21, and an in-person meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 23, with times and locations TBD.