County officials approve construction project to improve pedestrian safety near UCF

$13 million construction contract intended to improve safety along Alafaya Trail

ORANG COUNTY, Fla. – Much needed updates are coming to the streets surround the University of Central Florida to make them safer for pedestrians.

Tuesday, commissioners in Orange County approved a $13 million construction contract for their safety improvement project near University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail.

Director of Public Works Joseph Kunkel shared details about the project with News 6. He says the changes have been a long time coming.

“There is a lot of traffic on both University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail,” Kunkel said. “You have a lot of cars, and along with that you have demand from pedestrians. In this case, mostly students.”

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Kunkel says the county plans to add two mid-block crossings in areas close to student housing. They will provide a safe space for students to cross in places between intersections. There are also plans to widen sidewalks, among other changes.

“It’s called pedestrian channelization, some things we’re putting in the median to help guide pedestrians to the crosswalks,” Kunkel said. “We are also having a larger, multi-purpose path put in on the east side of Alafaya Trail and that will provide a place for pedestrians, as well as cyclists, to go and be off the roadway.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Jerry Demings spoke about the high volume of pedestrians in the corridors close to UCF. He also acknowledged past incidents where students have been hit by cars.

“Over time we’ve seen several different tragic accidents in this particular area, impacting most often students from the University of Central Florida,” Demings said.

In 2014, Brooke Dawkins was killed near Alafaya and Gemini. Her parents provided a statement to News 6 about the safety improvement project:

My family is very happy to see the proposed changes get to the next step of contract award. Yes, it’s been over nine years, but the county didn’t have to do anything. It isn’t their road. It is a state road. I compliment their initiative in bringing UCF and the state to the table to get this done. It was not easy.

Because the County took this action, I know someday another family will not have to go through what mine and many others did. No one should bury their child or teenage sister. Brooke was their sister and best friend. She was loved by so many and is still impacting her family, friends, those who knew her, and of course the organ donation efforts of donate life.

Chris and Laura Dawkins

In 2017, Austin Ekern’s father says he was visiting from FSU when he was hit by a car along Alafaya Trail. The same year Alexandria Clark was killed crossing University Blvd.

Kunkel explained why it’s taken years since their deaths for changes to be made.

“There are always challenges with developing plans, doing studies, and getting a contractor on board,” Kunkel said. “It’s a major, major project.”

Public Works says every solution also comes with a cost. They say the plans they have in the works cost more than $13 million and anticipate construction will be complete in late 2024.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.