The Orange County Board of County Commissioners outlined an $11 million initiative Wednesday to improve pedestrian safety around UCF.
The plan includes major changes to roads and intersections near the university and comes as the result of a months-long study on car and foot traffic in the UCF area.
“[UCF area] roads, with all of the issues that have gone on — the fatalities, the pedestrian issues — [are] a priority for the county,” said Ted Edwards, Orange County Commissioner for District 5.
The study, which focused on segments of Alafaya Trail, University Boulevard and McCulloch Road, determined that 259 crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists happened in the area between 2006 and 2014. These crashes caused 207 injuries and killed 11 people.
Jason Donnelly, a senior nursing major who has been hit by cars twice while skateboarding near UCF, was optimistic about the proposed efforts to improve safety in the area.
“It’s good that they’re doing something,” Donnelly said. “Something is better than nothing … it’s definitely a problem that needs to be taken care of.”
Donnelly was struck by a car in 2014 at the entrance to The Pointe at Central and again in 2015 at the intersection of University Boulevard and Turbine Drive.
The proposed changes include adding a mid-block pedestrian crossing on Alafaya Trail in front of University Apartments and another across University Boulevard near the Plaza on University apartments. The proposal also includes new visual and psychological cues to remind drivers they’re near a college campus, such as UCF-themed wayfinding signs and an enhanced entrance to UCF at University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail.
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Infographic created by Gabby Baquero
Other proposed changes include pedestrian fencing along medians to discourage illegal crossing, pedestrian-scale lighting so drivers can see pedestrians and cyclists more easily and modified traffic lights with flashing yellow right turn arrows that tell drivers to watch for pedestrians while turning right. Commissioners also discussed widening sidewalks to 8 feet, widening crosswalks and crosswalk landings to 12 feet, adding shrubbery and landscaping around sidewalks and medians to make jaywalking more difficult and changing large intersections to make right turns much tighter and thus more difficult to take quickly.
All told, the proposal would cost an estimated $11.3 million, although that number could drop as the total requirements for the improvements come into focus. Orange County has already committed about $4.8 million of funding to the proposal if it passes.
“Really important to the success of this project is solidifying our relationship with FDOT and UCF,” said Brian Sanders, chief transportation planner for Orange County. “We need them to be partners with us, which would include the maintenance of these [improvements].”
Although UCF hasn’t yet publicly committed to funding to the project, Sanders said that UCF has already agreed to incorporate new pedestrian safety training into this summer’s freshman orientation sessions.
The county money pledged toward the project, he added, could make an impact even without financial help from UCF or the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We’ll see how far we can get with $4 million for now,” Sanders said. “The [first] things that we’re planning to put out there [are] really some of the most impactful on behavior.”
However, Sanders said that without any additional money the project cannot be completed in full.
Orange County officials presented the study findings and the proposed improvements at Union Park Middle School, located about five miles away from UCF on Westfall Drive. Fewer than 10 UCF students attended the meeting.
Carlos Guillermo Smith, a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives’ 49th district, which includes the UCF campus, attended and asked several questions about the plan.
“I’m committed to working with FDOT and with the Florida legislature to get funding for this project to increase safety and reduce the kind of tragedy that we’ve seen,” Smith said.
Two meetings will take place in June that will ultimately decide the fate of the project. First comes a public hearing with a citizen’s advisory board, which then makes a recommendation to the Board of Orange County Commissioners. After that, another public hearing will be held where the commissioners will vote to either approve or reject the plan.
Ted Edwards, a county commissioner who represents eastern Orlando and the UCF campus, is confident the plan will pass.
“It’s not a controversial project where it’s ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Edwards said. “If anything, we might need to tweak it [a bit], but I would not anticipate any problems with this being approved.”
If the project is approved, county officials will begin designing, planning and implementing it. If all of the necessary funding is secured, construction is anticipated to start in spring 2018 and conclude in late 2019.
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This story was originally published May 23, 2016.
Alex Storer is the Entertainment Editor of the Central Florida Future. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.