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Getting Central Florida Moving

sunrail, sunrail seminole county, sunrail central florida, I-4 florida, I-4, I4, lake mary, longwood, downtown orlando, sak comedy club, lake eola, seminole county news, seminole county post, justin k york, justin york, justin york seminole county,

Why Rail is Good for Seminole County.

 

By Justin K. York, Esq.

 

Like many Central Floridians, I have enjoyed commuting by SunRail. Unless I have to travel for work, I take the train from the Lake Mary station off Country Club Road to the Lynx Central Station in downtown Orlando. My office is within walking distance of the station. I appreciate the predictability of traveling from Lake Mary to Orlando in a 25 to 40 minute span. It’s also a pleasant opportunity to read a book or surf the web using SunRail’s free Wi-Fi rather than navigate 20 miles of stop-and-go traffic.

 

I do not need to tell anyone that I-4 traffic congestion can be a source of great personal frustration, causing commuters to be late for office meetings or picking up their children from school.

 

Additionally, its well documented excessive congestion has a negative impact on economic growth. In August 2010, the University of Florida prepared a study for Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) looking at the economic impact of traffic congestion. FDOT utilized the methodology of the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) Urban Mobility Report, which produces estimates on the cost of congestion. TTI had previously identified Orlando as an area with increasingly severe congestion, with “minor urban” areas following suit. In one vivid example of the chronic congestion issues in our community, FDOT estimated that during 2007, Seminole County motorists spent half their time on the road in congestion.

 

The study also noted  that congestion can result in reductions in economic activity:

 

Congestion reduces the size of markets, which, in turn, reduces the scope of business, the size of the labor pool, and the economics of agglomeration (referring to the economic benefits of businesses locating themselves near each other). That represents extra costs for existing [businesses] due to the need of decentralizing operations, reductions of job growth due to higher labor costs, and comparative disadvantages for the location of economic activities in congestion free sites.

 

Furthermore, congestion has social costs which may be more difficult to quantify, including environmental damage and additional car accidents caused by traffic density. There is also the potential for lost tourism dollars where tourists, who otherwise may wish to explore Orlando’s downtown restaurants, Lake Eola or Sak’s Comedy Club, are deterred by the prospect of grinding gridlock.

 

It was recently announced I-4 Mobility Partners won the FDOT bid for the I-4 Ultimate Project. The $2.3 billion Project will, among other things, attempt to combat this congestion by adding 4 toll lanes with variable pricing to the middle of the interstate. Construction is expected to begin later this year with projected completion in 2020. In the long term, the Project is likely to alleviate some traffic congestion. But, like death and taxes, it is certain there will always be some traffic congestion. To keep Central Florida moving, rail will be essential.

 

SunRail offers relief from congestion for the commuter, with predictable travel times to and from Orange County to Seminole County. But also, SunRail will create economic growth opportunities for Central Florida. In my hometown of Lake Mary, 200 luxury apartments are being built just across the street from the city’s SunRail station—a $26 million investment in the city’s already vibrant downtown. The apartments themselves are within walking distance of the downtown’s many restaurants and shops (I will include here a shameless plug for Pierre’s Wine Cellar, with excellent selection and vintages). Likewise, in Longwood, Orange Crown Holdings, LLC plans to spend $24 million to build a 201-unit apartment complex, “Weston Park,” near the Longwood SunRail station and the city’s historic district. Office and retail space is reportedly soon to follow. These examples of the of transit-oriented development model, with pedestrian-friendly, “walkable villages” mixed in with civic, commercial and cultural offerings for residents, demonstrate how rail can spur economic growth. 

 

SunRail is just the beginning of what is likely to be heightened rail activity in the future. As its Phase 2 expands service south of Sand Lake Road down to Kissimmee and north to DeLand, Seminole County residents may yet obtain additional rail options with All Aboard Florida, a private, high speed rail line connecting Miami and Orlando along the existing Florida East Coast Railway. It holds out the possibility of traveling from Miami to Orlando in less than three hours. As an avid Miami Marlins fan, this Seminole County resident is indeed excited at this prospect.

 

Getting Central Florida moving will take time. There also may be some trial and error in finding the best ways to get Seminole County commuters where they need to be. But, count this Seminole County resident as an optimist on what rail has to offer for our county. You should be too.

 

 

Justin York is an attorney with the firm Lydecker Diaz in Orlando. He is also a longtime Seminole County resident and conservative Republican activist. He has chaired the UCF College Republicans and the Florida Federation of College Republicans. He also headed the student and youth coalitions in Florida for both the McCain and Romney presidential campaigns. He currently serves as Secretary of the Seminole County Republican Party and a member of the Lake Mary Planning and Zoning Board.

 

 

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