(Orlando, WMFE) The controversial $1.6 billion dollar Wekiva Parkway project moved ahead Tuesday in Orlando as the regional planning body Metro-Plan Orlando approved a funding proposal for the 25-mile long roadway. Only two commissioners voted against the funding plan. Osceola County Commissioner and Metro-plan board member John Quinones cited concerns about costs as his reason for voting no, "You’re talking about 1.6 billion dollars. That is too much of a price tag. I think the toll roads are going to pay the consequences. I just don’t think the cost benefit analysis warrants the building of this road right now."
Currently the Florida Turnpike Authority will pay for 28% percent of the project costing about $459 million dollars, state DOT funds will cover another 28% at $460 million, and the Orlando/ Orange County Expressway Authority will pickup the remaining 44% or 745 million dollars.
The roadway project which has been discussed for more than 50 years, raised controversy on the latest round of discussions because some studies by the Orlando /Orange County Expressway Authority show the Wekiva Parkway won't be able to pay for itself for years, despite being partially tolled.
Also, about 150 residents of the 12 Oaks RV Resort in Sanford, Florida will have to be relocated if the roadway isn't moved. Manager Sid Bennett says he's planing a lawsuit under the Older Americans Act which was signed in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. Bennett said he felt many emotion after the approval of the parkway, "Desperation, despair, because this is just another step in the taking and the forcing of something that's going to have be very tragic for a lot of people on SR 46."
Environmental groups in Central Florida including Audubon of Florida are supporting the Wekiva Parkway because it will be partially elevated allowing migrating black bears and other species to pass under without crossing traffic.
Initially the highway will be composed of four lanes with slip roads on the side. Eventually it could be expanded to six lanes.
Next the plan goes before the Lake-Sumter Regional Planning Organization and the Orlando/Orange County Expressway Authority.
Groundbreaking could start as early as this fall.
You can listen to economist Dr. Hank Fishkind's analysis of the Wekiva Parkway project here.