Millions of visitors to the International Drive corridor soon may be able to access every part of the destination in a safer way.
I-Drive leaders have met twice this year to revive the idea of a proposed pedestrian bridge over the busy intersection of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road. The discussions have been slow, yet methodical in nature as leaders try to bring a project that has stalled in the past to reality.
The intersection is the major entryway to International Drive and its surrounding business area. That crossway alone sees at least 50,000 cars every day, according to state data. Meanwhile, nearly 15 million visitors come to the corridor each year where they spend money in hundreds of hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and more that play a role in the region’s larger $75 billion tourism and travel industry.
What has been discussed most recently?
Design of the bridge has yet to begin, but that hasn’t stopped leaders from looking at the engineering side of the project. Specifically, discussions on Sept. 20 revolved around how to design the towers at each corner of the intersection — specifically how users would access it.
Various designs of corner towers include stairs, escalators, ramps and elevators. However, some variations such as the ramps would require too much area to meet the adequate height or would be too costly to maintain — as was the case for outdoor escalators.
How much will the project cost and when will it start work?
A specific construction timeline and cost for the bridge were not shared at the meeting, but there was mention that a construction start could be more than five years from now and the price could exceed $25 million. Funding for the bridge would come from the International Drive community redevelopment agency, which collects taxes from the area for specific uses.
Ideally, the bridge would be a good addition to the corridor by 2025 when the future nearby Epic Universe theme park from Universal Orlando Resort will open.
Why is the project important to the region?
International Drive has been growing with new attractions and investments, which means visitation likely will grow. In addition, the new Epic Universe theme park should draw millions of tourists annually to the corridor area, as well as have more than 14,000 workers commuting regularly to the theme park and the surrounding businesses.
“The I-Drive pedestrian bridge is a very significant project that will address two key issues on the very busy intersection of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road — pedestrian safety and traffic,” Angel de la Portilla, government consultant and owner of Central Florida Strategies Inc., who has been providing consultancy services for the bridge for several years, previously told OBJ.
What could the bridge look like?
There is no official design for the bridge yet. However, some loose conceptual drawings were revealed years ago that showed various iterations. Some versions were circular in nature and showcased lighting or displays that could double as a beacon for visitors.
Joshua Wallack, owner of Mango’s Tropical Cafe Orlando and property owner of many parcels making up the northeast corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road for his long-envisioned Skyplex project, previously said the meetings have been productive. Wallack envisions the proposed pedestrian bridge as a gateway to the I-Drive tourist district. “Even though we would be happy to get nice, pretty functional bridges, we would like some architectural elements to make it look iconic.”
Source: Orlando Business Journal
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