Colonial Drive – 25 years behind

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Colonial Drive, also known as State Road 50.  It starts (or ends) at US 1 in Titusville and end (or starts) at Weeki Wachee.  It basically connects Central Florida’s East Coast and West Coast.  Colonial, or SR50 as I will henceforth refer to it, is divided into East Colonial and West Colonial, with the dividing point in Orlando.

If you take SR50 and create a road segment between Christmas, FL and the Central Florida fairgrounds, you end up with one of the most congested and unusable road segments in all of Florida.  The road alternates between 4 and six lanes throughout this segment.  Currently, there is a huge construction project underway at SR50 and SR436; an overpass is being built to alleviate the congestion at this infamous intersection.  But is that really the problem?  Do we really need an overpass there?

I don’t have the ultimate solution for fixing SR50.  I am not a traffic or civil engineer – I am a M&S systems engineer.  But I do have thoughts.  Widening the road only partially alleviates the congestion – you have to eliminate the bottlenecks. 

First, growth must be controlled.  If more and more stores, shopping complexes and malls go in, the traffic is increased.  Orlando also grows at a faster rate than most areas of Florida, meaning the burden on the infrastructure is greater.  Second, there are two types of drivers on SR50 – those who want to make local short runs and those who are making longer commutes.  I suggest that there be two through lanes with sporadic exits at major intersections.  These could be elevated.  Major intersections such as Alafaya and SR50, Goldenrod and SR50, SR436 and SR50 and OBT and SR50 need to be re-engineered to alleviate choke point formation.  Third, urban sprawl is to blame for the slowdowns on SR50.  Direct access businesses litter the sides of SR50 at its busiest points.  And most of them are crappy dumps that need to be closed down.  These small time operations need to be phased out, and I favor the concept of clumping vendors into well-designed (traffic flow wise) shopping conglomerates versus bits and pieces here and there.  I like how Sarasota did it – St. Armands Circle.  I like how Kansas City did it with Zona Rosa and Legends. 

SR50 is not even a viable option from Chuluota Road to the Fashion Square Mall.  The road is so congested that it literally takes an hour or more to go 10 miles.  The congestion is excaberated by the continual construction that never seems to make appreciable progress.

I think one of the reasons SR50 is not growing to a sustainable size and design is the introduction of the Toll Road systems in Florida.  Widening and improving SR50 would divert thousands of cars from SR408 (Toll) and SR528 (Toll) to a public road that is free of tolls.  That would reduce revenue in the ultra corrupt toll authority.

I believe SR50 is at least 25 years behind where it should be.  Whoever was in a position of leadership years ago had absolutely no foresight and prediction capability – the leadership of yesterday actually allowed business to congest SR50 with a 20 foot offset from the road shoulder…effectively eliminating the possibility of ever widening or improving the roadway.  Today’s leadership is more concerned with billion dollar shortfalls caused by their own greed and gerrymandering their own districts to ensure re-election.  SR50 remains the forgotten and unusable artery of Central Florida – clogged with the plaque of millions of aggressive drivers. 

SR50 has arteriosclerosis and some stints need to be put in soon.

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