Developer looks to extend Lee Road in Winter Park

Drivers could have an easier commute if a Lee Road extension goes through.

Drivers could have an easier commute if a Lee Road extension goes through.

Tim Freed

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A future FDOT project to extend Lee Road faces opposition from some Winter Park residents, fearing new traffic problems if developer’s efforts are enough to push the project forward.

The roadwork would extend Lee Road to Denning Drive in hopes of reducing traffic along U.S. Highway 17-92. Drivers looking to head farther east while on Lee Road would be spared from having to turn right on 17-92 and left on Webster Avenue, both avoiding traffic and decreasing the overall volume of cars.

But residents expressed concern at the City Commission’s Feb. 24 meeting about the project’s potential of adding more traffic elsewhere.

An extension of Lee Road toward Denning could send more cars toward neighborhoods such as Park North, Park Grove and Green Oaks to the southwest of Lake Maitland, Winter Park resident Rosa Levy said.

“We have a beautiful city,” Levy said. “I don’t want to see it be made into a traffic thoroughfare.”

Levy said the Park Maitland School up the street on 17-92 poses other concerns. Hundreds of parents line up in their cars along North Park Avenue to merge onto the major road, on their way to pick up their children on Magnolia Road.

She said more cars along North Park Avenue and 17-92 could be a safety hazard for the students getting picked up.

“I don’t feel like that would be wise,” Levy said. “There are many, many children in that area.”

The project may move forward regardless, possibly coming sooner rather than later because of a developer’s plans for the Lee Road/17-92 intersection, City Manager Randy Knight said.

UP Development from Nashville pushed for the original traffic study in 2003 that prompted the road extension project.

The developer hopes to acquire the traffic light at Lee Road to increase access to a planned Whole Foods Market on the other side of 17-92, Knight said. The new portion of Lee Road would lead directly to the new development, placed on either side of the street.

Knight said the developer might try to speed up the project by picking up the remaining costs for the $16 million FDOT project, originally set to be completely funded by 2018. The road extension would start by 2015 if UP Development stepped up now. Roughly half of the right-of-way for the project has already been acquired, Knight said.

“Rumors are flying that if the DOT has the funds to do this project, it’s going to be done whether we like it or not,” Winter Park resident Marilyn Miller said.

City Commissioner Steve Leary said it’s likely too late to stop the state-level project.

“With our relationships we could certainly work with DOT, but if they’re dead set to get it through, the city has little recourse to stop it,” Leary said.

The City Commission agreed at this week’s meeting to organize an informational session for residents on the Lee Road extension.