It’s a well-known fact, Osceola County’s population is surging. In fact, Osceola is the third fastest growing county in the United States. That rapid growth has made the need for additional transportation solutions extremely important, with Poinciana being one of the most adversely affected areas in the county.
During an open board meeting of the Osceola Chamber’s Poinciana Council at Valencia College’s Poinciana Campus on Tuesday, guest speakers from Osceola County and the Central Florida Expressway Authority discussed significant transportation initiatives taking place in Osceola County, particularly in the Poinciana region, including the proposed Southport Connector Expressway. which is currently in the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study phase.
The goals of the Southport Connector are to provide a new limited-access expressway within the greater Poinciana area and create connectivity to interregional transportation systems like Florida’s Turnpike and, through future planned expressways, Interstate-4. The expressway would also relieve congestion on local roads, provide for new multimodal opportunities, enhance evacuation and emergency efficiency, and support economic development, according to CFX.
Transportation projects, like CFX’s Southport Connector, which is a part of what CFX calls their southern beltway, take quite a bit of time to study, design, and construct. The 125 miles that CFX currently manages has taken over 50 years to build. Tuesday’s event hosted by the chamber, designed to allow for community input from residents, businesses, and organizations, is part of that process.
The Central Florida Expressway Authority believes it has identified a potential remedy for traffic challenges in and around Poinciana. They are suggesting the Southport Connector Expressway as a solution, which aims to establish a beltway by linking the current Poinciana Parkway with Florida’s Turnpike.
To create the beltway, the CFX wants to build an elevated expressway in the median of Cypress Parkway, 120-foot wide, and 30-foot high with 30-foot vertical walls, which some call the “Great Wall of Poinciana.”
A group of Poinciana residents, some that attended Tuesday’s meeting, are concerned that the new toll road will divide the community, harm local businesses, and be ineffective in reducing traffic congestion. That group calls themselves the Southport Connector Alternatives Routes, or SCAR. They are suggesting a route that would not run down the middle of Cypress Parkway. They are suggesting more of an elevated bridge structure that they say would give Cypress Parkway a more ‘elevated’ feel and would allow for people to still see under the expressway. According to SCAR, CFX’s Southport Connector would cause all intersections on Cypress Parkway to become underpasses under the tollway bridges.
In Tuesday’s discussion, Ralph Bove, program manager for the Southport Connector Expressway at CFX, stated that the organization is actively assessing various options to avoid or reduce substantial adverse effects on the Poinciana community.
“Osceola County has some of the worst traffic congestion, not only in the state of Florida, but in the entire United States. So, there is tremendous need for new roads, and improved roads. Today, we were here at Valencia College’s Poinciana Campus, to share some of our plans and some of the projects studies we are working on to help improve the traffic, and address transportation needs in Osceola County. The Southport Connector, a significant piece of a larger puzzle, is part of the southern beltway in Osceola County, and is 51 miles of new roads. We are presenting to the public an alignment for that new section of road, soliciting feedback from the community, and sharing what we think is the best plan to help address transportation here in Poinciana,” Brian Hutchings, CFX’s communications manager, said after the meeting on Tuesday.