Here’s 2 spots where the Osceola Parkway Extension may be built — both are controversial

Would you rather see a major road built through a costly wildlife/nature preserve or a neighborhood?

This is the dilemma the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which soon must decide where to put the Osceola Parkway Extension, has been facing since last year.

The proposed Osceola Parkway Extension begins one mile west of the Boggy Creek Road and Osceola Parkway intersection, and extends eastward along the Orange/Osceola County line for six miles before turning south into Osceola County to meet the northern terminus of the proposed Northeast Connector Expressway. The project also includes a potential north/south segment linking to State Road 417 in the general vicinity of the Boggy Creek Road interchange.

The goal of the project is to relieve congestion and have regional connectivity. It’s part of the authority’s overall 2040 master plan, which includes other alignments.

One of the current alternatives shows that the extension could go through the 1,700-acre Split Oak Forest preserve, acquired in the 1990s, which is south of the Clapp Simms Duda Road. Environmental conservationists say doing so would defeat the purpose of having protected land that involved millions in funding.

However, if the project does not go through Split Oak, it could mean nine would be taken in the St. Cloud community Lake Ajay Village.

“The board is going to look at all the options. Our job is how are we going to move people in the next 40 years here in Central Florida,” Fred Hawkins, chairman of the Central Expressway Authority, told  Business Journal after the board’s Feb. 8 meeting. “We have to move those people and the to-do list is now, before more development occurs.”

Roughly $70 million has been allocated for the project so far, which would go toward property acquisition and engineering.

He added that going through a community such as Lake Ajay Village, located off Narcoossee Road, likely would be more expensive than going through Split Oak

“The properties directly affected are worth $450,000-$600,000. The property taxes they pay are between $3,000-$5,000 each. Not only will those properties will be affected, but all of them running along this area,” said Stacy Ford, a resident of Lake Ajay Village, during the public comments segment of the meeting. “The worst case for us isn’t that CFX will go through our homes, it’s that CFX puts this road right next to our homes because we don’t get compensation for the impact of that, which is our property values. At minimum, it’s going to be 20 percent.”

And if the project does go through Split Oak forest, Hawkins said there may be land compensated for that loss.

At the next expressway authority meeting on March 8, the board will go over the feasibility and cost of alternative corridors so it can move forward with project development and environment studies.

There are multiple public meetings for those who want to express their concerns regarding how the project may affect their property or commute. The meetings all will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and will be held:

  • Feb. 13 at St. Cloud High School
  • Feb. 15 at Lake Nona Middle School
  • Feb. 21 at the Association of Poinciana Villages Community Center