Northeast Polk Developers Unveil More Damaging Toll Road Route

The main concern about the eastern leg of the now-shelved Central Polk Parkway was that its route would run to near to conservation lands in the Marion Creek basin.

This week economic development boosters came up with an alternative route—through the middle of the conservation lands.

Two things are driving this idea.

One is Haines City’s interest in securing a better truck route from its industrial park off County Road 544.

The other is coming up with a route that would have cheaper right of way costs that might make the road more financially feasible.

State transportation officials shelved that section of the road a couple of years ago because they concluded it wouldn’t attract enough traffic to justify its construction as a toll road.

The project was proposed several years ago because of projections that U.S. 27 would become too congested in coming decades and another north-south highway was needed.

Critics of this plan have responded that it makes more sense to widen U.S. 17-92, an existing two-lane north-south highway that could take traffic to Interstate 4 with nothing more than a northward extension of the Poinciana Parkway.

The other response would be that new roads do nothing but promote sprawl and ignores that fact that a lot of the traffic congestion on U.S. 27 in northern Polk County is because people are heading for destinations along U.S. 27 and because county planning was so poor in that area that alternative routes for local traffic were never adequately developed.

I’d add that there are ample studies that demonstrate that you can’t build your way out of congestion. The idea that the third-most populous state in the country would not face traffic congestion in urban areas is irrational.

The route presented to the Polk County Transportation Planning Organization was a crudely drawn map that proposes to connect the Central Polk Parkway to the southern end of the Poinciana Parkway, along the route of Cypress Parkway, an already heavily traveled, high-speed two-lane road that some Poinciana residents want widened to ease traffic congestion in this sprawling city-sized subdivision.

However, any new route would need to incorporate wildlife underpasses to recognize wildlife movement in the area, including some species such as Florida black bears and Florida panthers whose presence in the area has been confirmed in recent years.

Although TPO officials didn’t embrace the idea this week, this is an issue that bears watching because some of the road-building ideas economic boosters have been around since the 1920s and never seem to die.