POINCIANA – When Poinciana experienced a building boom in the past decade, the community was ready for the influx of home buyers that came to this community looking for a newly built home to purchase.
What the community wasn’t nearly as prepared to handle was all those newcomers staying put – and crowding onto a road system that was never built to handle a population that suddenly exceeded 84,000.
A bit late, perhaps, but the state of Florida, Osceola County and the main developer in Poinciana, Avatar Properties Inc., have started working on some relief for those congested roadways. It looks like 2012 will almost certainly be the year when the work begins on – although not necessarily when the work gets completed – on three major projects designed to make it easier for residents to get in and out of this community that cuts across Osceola and Polk counties.
They include the construction of the Poinciana Parkway, a new toll road that will connect Poinciana residents more quickly to Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Polk County – very close to the exit for Interstate 4 at ChampionsGate; the widening of one of the most heavily used roadways in this community, the Poinciana Boulevard, from two to four lanes; and SunRail, the commuter rail line that will start at Volusia County, run to downtown Orlando, and then stop at Poinciana, the last of 17 stops along this 61-mile route.
The good news is that all of these projects have gotten a green light – from the state of Florida for SunRail, from Osceola County for the Poinciana Boulevard widening, and from Avatar, Osceola and the Polk County governments for the Poinciana Parkway.
The bigger question is that with state and county funding still tight because of the recession and the weak housing market, how quickly will these projects move forward?
Since Poinciana is the last leg of SunRail, the local station likely won’t get built for another two years, said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, which is working to bring more jobs and businesses to the community that cuts across Osceola and Polk counties.
“The construction won’t start until 2013, as far as the Poinciana station,” Murdock said. “It will be late 2013 or early 2014 before construction starts.”
The station will be built near the intersection of Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail, across the street from the Gatorade plant, in what is now a wide open field. The new station will accommodate the final stop on the train route, and could become a cluster for new businesses that want to be located close to that station.
“SunRail has published renderings of the stations, and the stations are platforms with covers on them,” Murdock said.
PEDA is hoping to encourage other transportation providers to take advantage of the station – by establishing shuttle vans and bus service that can take passengers to other locations in Poinciana.
“I’ve had a conversation with Lynx,” Murdock said of the regional bus system, “and we’re definitely going to work with them and have a shuttle to the Wal-Mart.”
The Wal-Mart Superstore in Poinciana is at 904 Cypress Parkway, one of the busiest shopping plazas in the community.
“We’re also going to look into having one go to the hospital,” Murdock said. Osceola Regional Medical Center of Kissimmee is going to begin construction next year on the first hospital in Poinciana.
By establishing convenient shuttle service from the SunRail station, Murdock said, “We want to make it part of a Poinciana destination.”
The widening of Poinciana Boulevard won’t take nearly as long. Construction is expected to start in January, and will be completed within a two-year time frame, Murdock said, adding that the Poinciana construction firm Manhattan Kraft would handle the project.
The Poinciana Parkway project still needs some funding to get started, Murdock said, as well as full cooperation from both the Osceola and Polk County governments, since the roadway will cut across both.
“There’s still a little ways to go before we get funding confirmed,” Murdock said. “Polk County came to the table to pay for their share of it, which is a small share. I’m spending a reasonable amount of my time meeting with Polk and Osceola officials on this. Both are fairly good to work with, but Poinciana hasn’t been a priority in the past.”
It’s been harder for officials in Osceola County to come up with its share of the funding for the parkway. The county had relied on impact fees for projects like this – fees imposed on the sale of new homes being constructed. But when the housing market crashed in 2008, those fees disappeared. The county asked voters for a sales tax increase in November 2010 to pay for a series of road projects, including the Poinciana Parkway, but voters solidly rejected it.
Wendy Farrell, a Poinciana business owner and member of PEDA, said both counties and Avatar dropped the ball, allowing the homes to be built before the infrastructure was in place to handle all the newcomers.
“I came here in 2000, and the population then was 28,000,” she said. “In the next 10 years, it totally mushroomed. By 2005, they were banging out houses in 90 days.”
Year after year, she said, the roads got more and more congested.
“It was probably happening on a yearly basis,” Farrell said. “We were getting all these new extra houses, but there was still only one way out of Poinciana. The infrastructure was supposed to be there first, and it wasn’t. That’s why they call it infrastructure. A master plan did not exist. A master plan should be about infrastructure first. Both Polk and Osceola counties have changed things since the building boom. You can’t do it like that anymore.”
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.