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Orlando Sentinel: City, County Must Unite on Corrine

Owned by Orange County, but desired by the City of Orlando, Corrine Drive faces a conundrum. Many are in agreement that Corrine Drive needs improvements, but the direction and vision are unclear.

The Orlando Sentinel editorial below sheds some light on the current situation of the popular roadway. 

Corrine Drive is a tale of two roadways. One involves a mile-long stretch of ugly, crumbling pavement in Orlando’s northeast corner that poses a danger to pedestrians, bicyclists and cars. The other Corrine is a success story of urban repurposing, a place where tired strip malls and neglected buildings are being transformed into vibrant, trendsetting businesses.

Which is the real Corrine Drive? The answer could foretell Orlando’s success in rescuing older neighborhoods from neglect and decline. As with many such public challenges, it will require cooperation between local governments, residents and business interests, as well as vision. In other words, success won’t be achieved easily.

First to be resolved is who is responsible for Corrine Drive. Orange County owns the road even though it is inside Orlando city limits and on the southern edge of Winter Park. The last significant work on Corrine, adding landscaped medians, was done by Orlando with the understanding that the road would be the city’s in the future.

It didn’t turn out that way. Now, the city has high hopes for Corrine but no plan. The county has ownership but provides no stewardship.

Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, whose district includes Corrine, says the city wants the road but doesn’t want to reveal its intentions for it. He worries that the city will “put the road on a diet,” transportation speak for reducing road capacity. Edwards says he would be open to some changes but wants to see a traffic study first.

A group from the adjacent Audubon Park neighborhood, calling itself Corrine Calming Coalition, wants more than a superficial treatment. The coalition proposes taking two lanes out of the five-lane road and converting them to bike lanes, on-street parking and landscaping. That idea is likely to give heartburn to county officials — seen as fixated on just moving cars.

Orlando’s public works director, Rick Howard, is confident differences can be worked out among his city, Orange County, Winter Park, and surrounding neighborhoods and businesses along Corrine. Asked what stage that process is in, however, he sighs and isn’t sure.

Apparently the parties need a nudge. Here are the givens:

The road is falling apart but resurfacing would be a waste of money now if a major redesign is coming.

The road is unsafe. John Rife likens crossing Corrine to the arcade game “Frogger,” in which a player guides a frog across a busy street trying to avoid being squashed.

Rife understands the perils and promise of the corridor. He turned a foreclosed building into the upscale East End Market, a popular arcade of local food vendors, restaurants and shops. Construction would temporarily hurt business, he said, but a safer, more attractive road design would be worth it in the long run.

The planning process is stalled. Everyone seems to be in the “hurt feelings” stage.

Orlando needs to reveal its intentions for Corrine Drive, starting with a credible traffic study.

Orange County needs to admit it has an obligation to a road on which it claims ownership, and that Corrine’s sole purpose is no longer just to move cars along a sterile, unsafe span of asphalt. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has made bicycle and pedestrian safety a key part of her transportation agenda. Here’s an opportunity to prove it.

Neighborhoods that fear commuter traffic taken off Corrine will show up on their streets need to be more realistic. There are no viable alternative routes other than Colonial Drive, and that isn’t going to change.

Urban streets that are safe, alluring and dotted with popular businesses are an asset to everyone. Corrine Drive is on the verge of becoming a unique corner of Orlando, but only if responsible parties act decisively.

Orlando Sentinel Editorial | January 15, 2016

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