First pilot study of East Central Florida Corridor Task Force.
The ultimate characteristic of any great leader or entity, including states, is vision and a plan for its future. Florida has been a magnet for people, businesses and its share of visionaries. From the first flight on the hard sand of Daytona Beach in 1906 to the epicenter of manned space flight at Kennedy Space Center, to a fateful day in November 1963 when a 61-year-old man named Walter Elias Disney gazed out the window of his Gulfstream upon acres and acres of land and reportedly said, “That’s it” — Florida has attracted those who dare to dream and dream big.
With the myriad opportunities in the Sunshine State, growth has been as reliable as its warm weather. Florida has passed N.Y. making it No. 3 in the nation for the most populous state, at nearly 20 million residents, and state and business leaders are tackling the issue of growth head on. Jacob Stuart, president of the Central Florida Partnership, encompassing a seven-county region, has brought community leaders together to address critical issues impacting the state’s future quality of life, including transportation, water (Page 22) and homelessness (Page 15).
In 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, released the 2060 Transportation Plan.
“We’re getting engaged at a much earlier stage to understand where the growth is projected to happen and ride that elevator from the ground floor,” said outgoing Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad. “Our focus on creating an economy not solely relying on the service industry and tourism, and focus more on manufacturing and building things in Florida. Where is that going to happen? Which of the ports are going to play a part in it and how do we make that movement of goods and commerce take place,” he added.
One of the first initiatives to address growth was the Shared Growth Vision for Central Florida, “How Shall We Grow?” An 18-month campaign, led by myregion.org and other public, private and civic partners in 2006 to 2007, it involved 20,000 Central Florida residents and examined how to grow the region through 2050. Four key themes emerged: Conservation, Countryside, Centers and Corridors.
During the period of Reconstruction (1865-1877), Floridians found themselves cut off from the rest of the country. Florida had few roads and needed to build more railroads. Unfortunately, the state was in debt from the Civil War and had no finances with which to expand.
Northern businessmen, however, did have money and saw investment opportunities in Florida. In 1881, a man by the name of Hamilton Disston bought 4 million acres of land from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee for 25 cents an acre. This single investment helped get Florida out of debt and back on the road to building.
A year later, Henry B. Plant, began building railroads throughout the state. He also connected Florida to Georgia, which opened the way for interstate trading and travel. An entrepreneur by the name of William Chipley built railroads that linked the Panhandle region with the rest of Florida. This enabled the goods being shipped to the Pensacola ports to be sent to the rest of the state by rail.
Henry Flagler settled in St. Augustine, where he built its first big hotel, the Ponce de Leon, the most luxurious of its time. To encourage people to visit, he built railroads to help connect St. Augustine and Daytona Beach to railways that could bring guests all the way from New York. Flagler also developed the resort town of Palm Beach and connected it, of course, by railroads.
By 1900, Florida had more than 3,000 miles of railroad and its transportation problems had been solved. With a population of 529,000, its economy thriving, Florida’s growth had only just begun.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The Future Corridors initiative, led by the FDOT, plans for the future of the major transportation corridors critical to the state’s economic competitiveness and quality of life over the next 45 years. This initiative builds upon the 2060 Florida Transportation Plan and Prasad’s “Florida’s 21st Century Transportation Vision.”
According to the Future Corridors website, in addition to an expected population increase of 37 percent by 2040, it is also anticipated Florida will experience a 44 percent increase in visitors by 2040 and a 39 percent increase in freight tonnage by 2035.
By definition, a statewide transportation corridor is one that connects Florida to other states or connects broad regions within Florida, generally by high-speed, high-capacity transportation facilities, such as interstate highways or other limited-access roadways, major rail lines and major waterways. These corridors may also involve multiple modes of transportation, as well as other linear infrastructure such as pipelines and telecommunications or utility transmission lines.
Florida’s Future Corridors initiative focuses on two approaches:
• Transforming existing facilities in a corridor to serve a new function, such as adding tolled express lanes, truck-only lanes, or bus rapid transit systems to an existing highway, or adding passenger service to an existing freight line.
• Identifying study areas for potential new parallel facilities to provide alternatives to existing congested highways or potential new corridors for multimodal facilities in regions not well served by statewide corridors today.
In advancing this initiative, Gov. Scott signed executive order 13-319 on Nov. 1, 2013, creating the East Central Florida Corridor Task Force. The first pilot study looks at emerging economic activity centers in portions of Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties.
The task force consists of 13 members representing local governments, private landowners, economic development, environmental and agricultural professionals who met for seven months and heard from stakeholders and leaders in the study area.
Their action report was delivered to Gov. Scott on Dec. 1.
TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
The task force faced some sobering statistics from the outset. Travel on the five major cross-regional routes was likely to double in the next 45 years, to as much as 2.6 million daily trips. The group’s solution: start working now to enhance the existing routes, in many cases making them multimodal, and quickly begin examining possible new north-south and east-west routes in the area.
Among the group’s key recommendations:
• Develop State Road 528 (linking Orlando to the Space Coast) into a multimodal, multiuse “super corridor.”
• Preserve the existing State Road 50/State Road 405 corridor from downtown Orlando and UCF to Cape Canaveral and look at possible extensions along State Road 50.
• Make multimodal improvements to the current State Road 417/Narcoossee Road corridor, focusing primarily on the area between U.S. 192 and UCF.
The group also recommended studying two potential new east-west and north-south corridors.
One east-west option is to develop a new multimodal corridor along the Orange/Osceola County line, linking Orlando International Airport and Lake Nona to the State Road 520 Corridor. The other is to develop a multimodal corridor from the airport/Lake Nona to central/southern Brevard County.
Looking at north-south, the first recommendation is extend the planned Northeast Connector Expressway north from the Osceola Parkway Extension to the State Road 528 corridor. A second option is to develop a new north-south multimodal corridor in eastern Orange and Osceola counties.
“People do not realize the amount of growth coming to this subsection of the region. But my belief is these magnets are so strong between Medical City, Port Canaveral and south Brevard that it is going to move jobs and people into this area in ways that I don’t think we’re prepared for or understand yet,” said Shelley Lauten, co-founder of triSect and former president of myregion.org.
“Development starts with demand. Central Florida is growing, and you have to decide what kind of development serves both current needs and the needs of the future, and encourage that development,” said Aaron Gorovitz, partner and co-chair of the land use and zoning group at Lowndes, Drosdick, Dostor, Kantor & Reed and retiring chairman of the Central Florida Partnership. His practice area has not had a down year from 1983 to 2006. After 2008 he experienced a modest slowdown, but sees a tremendous upturn in activity at present.
Prasad stated it simply. “We’re a state where people want to come. We need to be responsible on how that growth will happen.”
* Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida