The new Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation told area planning agency Metroplan Orlando that it plans to build express lanes on a section of State Road 417 it controls between the Orange County line and State Road 434, despite opposition to the project from Seminole County.
FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said the plan will remain on the books because it believes people will use it.
"It's about choice, and so folks choose to use the 417 or other toll roads. What we have found with the express lane concept is that we are able to double the average speed in both the express lane and the lanes that are existing today," Boxold said.
Seminole County has been complaining about the project from the start and Commissioner Bob Dallari made that clear to Boxold at the meeting.
"I think it is a redundant system to have a toll within a toll. It's ludicrous. Who in their right mind would do that?" Dallari said.
The state plans to start construction on the two lanes that will be in the center of SR-417 at the end of 2016. Part of Commissioner Dallari's objection is that the work will be done while Interstate 4 is under construction, and sr-417 is supposed to be an alternate around that construction.
"To put that under construction at the same time is just, it's crazy," Dallari said.
The FDOT is promising to minimize the problems with construction. There is an alternate plan, swapping roads with the FDOT. The Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) owns some of the SR-417, SR-429, and SR-528 while the state owns other sections. The proposal would be to swap the sections of SR-528 they don't own to get control of all of SR-417 and SR-429. Dallari said it is the best and only option to stop the express lanes.
"It's critical that we have local jurisdiction over local roads, and the 417 has gotten to be a local road, even though it is an Expressway," Dallari said.
Secretary Boxold says the preliminary discussions on swapping roads has already happened, and the state will gladly listen to the proposals.
"There are probably a lot of folks that drive in Orlando that aren't aware when they are on a Turnpike facility and when they are on an Expressway Authority facility. You know we try to make that seamless for the customer. Well it would be ultimately seamless for the customer if the whole thing was controlled by the either the authority or the department," Boxold said.
If the CFX can get control of SR-417, they would not be likely to build the express lanes Seminole County does not want.