ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – For the first time ever, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings held a State of International Drive speech he says to showcase the economic impact the 11-mile tourism corridor has for the county.
“It is vital to the overall economic success of our region,” Demings said.
Opening his speech by saying I-Drive hosts more than 75,000 workers and brought 14.8 million visitors in 2018.
“These millions of guests, families and residents of all ages come to I-Drive for an exciting experience they can find nowhere else,” he said.
The 35-minute speech also included information about new developments coming to the area, including Universal’s new Epic Universe and the controversial project between the theme park and the County to expand Kirkman Road.
“We are finalizing negotiations with Universal Studios for the extension of Kirkman Road, a six-lane roadway with an additional two transit lanes. The project is planned to be completed in 2023,” Demings said.
Here’s what else is coming to the Orlando tourist district:
- The new Ice Breaker roller coaster which will have a 93-foot-tall spike and a 100-degree angle coming to SeaWorld this Spring.
- The 300-foot-high Orlando Slingshot coming to the ICON Park and the Orlando Gyro Drop Tower which will have 350-foot free fall at 75 mph.
- The “Old Red” which will serve as a 15,000 sq ft live country music venue opening Spring 2020.
- Pointe Orlando going under a $32 million dollar renovation expected to be completed this summer.
- Vineland Pointe is a three-phase retail shopping complex south on I-Drive near Daryl Carter Parkway currently underway.
- The SKYPLEX Entertainment Complex will also include the world’s tallest pole-coaster.
- 18 new hotel projects with completion dates between now and 2024.
Demings said he welcomes the growth bringing more jobs to the area.
“It’s all about the jobs,” Demings said. “The faster we can get them through, the faster they will be on our taxes and the taxes they pay is a derivative on how we take care for all other things in this county from homelessness to other social service needs. That’s why, as mayor, I support these developments.”
He also said, with those developments, there are plans to improve traffic in the area.
“The ultimate goal is to move tourists and residents more efficiently, reducing traffic congestion and the dependency on single automobiles,” Demings said.
Some of those traffic projects include:
- International Drive Transit Lanes that will extend from Destination Parkway north to Sand Lake Road
- The Sand Lake Road and I-4 Interchanged designed by FDOT, will ease traffic and also features special design and landscaping to create an iconic signature entrance to the tourism district.
- The extension of Kirkman Road with the Universal Studios project is expected to be completed in 2023.
- The county is finalizing plans for a major pedestrian bridge at the intersection of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road.
Demings said he also has bigger plans for a multi-modal transit system to come into the area, which is where he says his proposal for a 1 cent sales tax on the November ballot could help.
"If it passes, I think it would create the dedicated funding that we can plan for decades into the future," Demings said.
A similar half-cent sales tax for transportation, called Mobility 20/20 failed miserably among voters in 2003. Demings said, in an October interview, this time is different.
“It failed because it wasn’t the right time. It failed because the connectivity they talked about was connecting the airport to the I-Drive corridor and it’s much more than that,” Demings said. “What we are talking about now is something different, in order for everybody to see themselves in the storyline.”
As of right now, more than 6,000 people have filled out surveys as the county gathers input on traffic troubles.