|An e-Newsletter for the Clients and Friends of C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A.|
Wheels of Progress Bring Traffic to a Standstill
“Central Florida is at a critical juncture,” according to the Central Florida Partnership. “Our unprecedented regional growth is challenging our ability to maintain basic infrastructure while building for the future.” This newly-formed coalition of public, private and civic leaders is on a mission to make Central Florida a global market leader by proactively addressing the region’s most pressing issues. Topping the list is transportation.
More than four million more people are projected to move into Central Florida in the coming years. Warns Kelley Mossburg, 2007 chair of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, “This will create a serious strain on our infrastructure and regional services and threaten our great quality of life unless we take decisive action now.”
U.S. Senator Mel Martinez agrees. “In order to continue improving the quality of life in our community, which is continually being challenged and stressed by growth and development, we have to be forward thinking about the future and the part transportation plays in that.”
A Texas A&M study determined that Central Floridians spend an average of 54 hours a year stuck in traffic. No surprise then that a University of Central Florida survey found nearly 75 percent of Central Floridians believe traffic congestion has a negative impact on their quality of life.
This negative impact is concerning to Clarence Otis, chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants. Otis told a recent gathering of business leaders that it is incumbent on the Orlando area to manage growth and address our growing transportation needs if the region expects to remain competitive in the global arena and avoid the kind of traffic gridlock that plagues other metropolitan cities
Moving Toward Solutions
The wheels already are starting to turn on this project. Last November, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and CSX Transportation reached a historic agreement; paving the way for the region’s first commuter rail line to begin service in 2010. Along with easing traffic congestion, the commuter rail line promises to create economic development opportunities for communities along the route; particularly for those that will host a station stop.
Senator Martinez recently helped steer $2.5 million in federal transportation funds to the region, which included money for LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority that coordinates public transportation for Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, to buy buses and study the expansion of its free downtown bus service. “We’ve been modernizing and growing the LYNX fleet, but that’s only the first step,” Sen. Martinez said. “With the coming of commuter rail, we’ve got to be thinking about how to build a multi-modal system that is going to be the next big step in public transportation.”
While local, state and federal transit agencies purse a broad agenda of long-range transportation solutions for our region – from increasing capacity on I-4 to building out the commuter rail line – Central Floridians can have an immediate impact with simple changes in behavior, such as driving less and carpooling when possible. Other employer-based solutions include adjusting work shifts to avoid peak rush hour traffic and offering some employees the option of telecommuting several days a week.
Editor’s note: Firm President and Managing Principal C.T. Hsu, FAIA, is one of five founding board members of the Central Florida Partnership.
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C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A.