Sand Lake Road Study Underway

Dr. Phillips’ Busiest Road May Soon See Improvements

by Debra Wood

Orange County officials are examining data and determining the best way to improve traffic conditions along Sand Lake Road.

While concerned citizens could not agree on a preferred “fix” to Sand Lake Road, west of Interstate 4, there was unanimous agreement at a fall community meeting that something needs to be done to relieve the congestion and traffic.

“I did not hear anyone say they didn’t want us to do anything,” said Anoch Whitfield, Orange County project manager, about the feedback the county received during the first community meeting, at which about 80 people attended. “We heard views about different improvements.”

Since that meeting, the Orange County Transportation Planning Division has completed a study of Sand Lake Road, from Apopka-Vineland Road to Turkey Lake Road. The data collection, some analysis and preliminary alternatives have been considered. Currently, 67,200 vehicles travel on Sand Lake Road between I-4 and Turkey Lake Road. From Turkey Lake Road to Dr. Phillips Boulevard, 49,000 make the journey daily, and 30,200 travel from Dr. Phillips Boulevard to Apopka-Vineland Road.

The heaviest congestion is at Dr. Phillips Boulevard, heading westbound, with about one-third of the traffic trying to turn right at Dr. Phillips Boulevard. From 2012 through 2015, 859 motor vehicle accidents occurred, with the highest number (203) happening between The Fountains and Dr. Phillips Boulevard. More than one-half were rear-end crashes, followed by left-turn accidents, and fewer than 1 percent involved a pedestrian or bicycle.

The study also included identifying improvements to Wallace Road, because it was the closest parallel road. It carries about 14,700 vehicles daily between Turkey Lake Road and Dr. Phillips Boulevard. Those improvements, including medians and turn lanes near the intersection of Dr. Phillips Boulevard, will begin this fall.

The study began in May 2016. The county sought suggestions from the public. People from local neighborhoods, civic organizations and businesses are participating in a Study Advisory Group.
“We had a good dialogue and feedback,” Whitfield said.

Recommendations will be presented to the Orange County Local Planning Agency and then the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, who, ultimately, will make the final decision.

The first option under consideration is to leave the road as it is.

The second and preferred option is to make operational improvements to the north and south sides of the 1.3-mile corridor, such as adding continuous right-lane turns and improving access and widening the median in front of The Fountains and Plaza Venezia shopping complexes between Turkey Lake Road and Dr. Phillips Boulevard. On the western portion, from Dr. Phillips Boulevard to Apopka-Vineland Road, the county is considering a widened sidewalk on the south side that would extend to near Turkey Lake Road.

“We heard consistently [about] the operational project,” said Brian Sanders, chief transportation planner at the county.

Many of the people who attended the meeting favored this operational improvement plan.

The third alternative is a full reconstruction, building additional lanes, so there would be three lanes in each direction from Turkey Lake to Apopka-Vineland roads with bike lanes and the wide sidewalk on the south side, as well as an opportunity for transit. Some in attendance said they do not see many people walking in the area and thought wider sidewalks would be a waste of money. However, the county observed more than 300 people walking and bicycling in the area during a two-day survey taken in September 2015 and May 2016.

The board of county commissioners has approved the operational improvements. Design should begin in 2018, after a consultant is hired. Sanders does not anticipate needing to purchase right-of-way, so construction can begin when the design is completed, about one year after the design contract is let.

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