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Bergeron Develops Controversial Road in Orange County

Wed January 26, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Debra Wood

Considered one of the most controversial road projects in Orange County, widening and realignment of Apopka-Vineland Road has begun.

The $22-million, 4.8-kilometer (3 mi.) project, which pitted residents against bureaucrats and changed Orange County transportation practices, will improve traffic safety and offer drivers a straighter, speedier north-south route from one of Orlando’s fastest growing suburbs to an east-west expressway.

Bergeron Land Development received the contract for section three, a $1.3-million, 700-meter (2,296 ft.) stretch that broke ground August 1, 1999.

At the road’s northern end, crews are running pipe and building a new road through land Orange County had earmarked for a park. The park will be built on the site of and adjacent to the existing road after the new pavement opens.

“It’s kind of nice being out in the open field,” said Bergeron Project Manager Glen Kolb. “We still have traffic on either end, and we have utilities to tie into. But out in the center, it’s nice not to have to worry about traffic.”

A road construction crewman was recently killed in Central Florida, raising awareness of roadside danger.

Bergeron owns most of the equipment the company is using on the project including the pipe crew’s Kobelco excavator, a vibratory roller and front-end loaders.

“A front-end loader with forks and an interchangeable bucket feeds materials to people in the trench,” Kolb said.

Kolb expects to finish the first phase on time, by May 2000.

“It’s nice working in an area with sandy soil,” he said. “We can work through the rain. The rain hasn’t hurt us a bit.”

The second phase is scheduled to break ground in May 2000, and the last, most complicated section, in June 2001. County planners expect the entire project will be complete in 2003.

Plans for the final phase include building a bridge over a lake, reconstructing a bridge over the Ronald Reagan Turnpike and realigning the road through the center of an upper-middle class subdivision, splitting the neighborhood into two parcels separated by a four-lane thoroughfare.

Although the county has owned the two-hectare (5 acre) strip of right-of-way for nearly a decade, residents became extremely upset when they heard the plans and put up a fight. They hired consultants and proposed alternative routes to no avail.

“It proved to be so controversial that the public works director formed a new division, the Transportation Planning Division, and completely overhauled how they do road alignment and road designs,” said homeowner Teresa Jacobs. “By the time [the county] asked [homeowners], they had spent so much money that it wasn’t meaningful input. Now they start in the neighborhoods before they start with consultants and engineers.”

The county offered residents enhanced landscaping to mitigate their concerns, then backed out of paying for maintenance. Residents eventually worked out a compromise, agreeing to a special tax assessment to pay for half the $80,000 annual per-mile maintenance costs.

Homeowners will set up a nonprofit corporation to oversee maintenance. This will be the first special taxing district of its kind in Orange County. Officials and homeowners say it could become a model for future projects.

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