Everglades Headwaters Highway Project Re-Emerges; Public Meeting Planned

A plan to build a road through wild areas south of Lake Tohopekaliga between Poinciana and the Florida Turnpike has received new life.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority, which is involved in planning road projects in Orange, Osceola, Lake, Seminole and Brevard counties, is in the early stages of studying potential routes. Most of the routes are overland on what is now ranch land north of Disney Wilderness Preserve but which has been proposed for development in something called the South Lake Tohopekaliga Master Plan. There has also been a suggestion to re-examine an earlier proposal to bridge a section of the lake.

The justification for the new road mimics typical arguments for all such projects: regional connectivity, emergency evacuation and congestion relief. There is traffic congestion in Poinciana, though it is primarily the result of local traffic in this sprawling unincorporated community that was planned and approved for development before stricter modern growth-management regulations took effect.

The idea of building a connector road from northeast Polk County to other highways to reach the Atlantic coast has been around for decades as an economic development scheme.

Expressway officials have met with environmental groups including the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy, who have raised issues on listed species protection, wildlife crossings, preservation of wildlife corridors and smokesheds, which are areas affected by periodic prescribed fire management.

A public meeting will be scheduled sometime later this year, project officials told the Polk County Commission at a recent briefing.

If the study concludes the project is feasible, construction could begin by the end of the decade.


Posted in Group Conservation Issues.