Orlando building a pedestrian bridge for Universal Orlando amidst controversy

Posted Friday, February 15, 2013 9:26 AM | Contributed by rollergator

Orlando plans to spend $9 million in taxpayer money for improvements around Universal Orlando, half of it for a pedestrian bridge that will be used almost exclusively by the theme park's guests. City leaders say the flyover bridge is needed to keep pedestrians safe. But critics are crying foul, labeling the bridge a giveaway to Universal.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, February 15, 2013 9:29 AM

If you've read Married To The Mouse, this probably sounds familiar. The same controversy came when they built the I-4 interchange, not to mention the three interchanges feeding Disney.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 9:51 AM

This is one of my pet peeves. Not only is the use of tax dollars an issue but the reason they're building it is as well.

Orlando Economic Development Director Brooke Bonnett
Many I-4 commuters use the Universal exit as a shortcut to Turkey Lake Road and the Dr. Phillips area, Bonnett said, and the theme park's continued expansion creates a dangerous mix of automobiles and pedestrians.

Orlando Economic Development Director Brooke Bonnett
"But what's important to remember is the benefit to the folks in the car who will no longer have to meander around those pedestrians."

Is it for pedestrian safety or is it for the impatient commuters using the road as a shortcut who don't want to wait?

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Friday, February 15, 2013 10:14 AM

The economic case seems reasonable to me---the Universal "tax zone" created to pay for the I-4 interchange is generating an extra $5.5M/year beyond what the interchange debt service costs. Using *one* year's worth of that for this bridge doesn't sound all that unreasonable, both for pedestrian safety and traffic flow.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 10:36 AM

I agree. I think it totally makes sense. This is why I don't care for the black-and-white ideals people have on stuff like this. The public-private partnerships overall in Central Florida have everything to do with there being an economy at all. Sure, Disney has abused it in some cases and created lopsided problems (particularly with regard to law enforcement and education), but I wouldn't write it off as an overall negative.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 10:41 AM

But the interchange isn't even paid for yet. Why not pay down the debt? They don't need a bridge, they need a crossing guard.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 11:02 AM

I'm all for using tax dollars to pay for the bridge if commuters will benefit from it as well as Universal guest pedestrians.

At first I didn't understand why the bridge needed to be built in the first place though, because there is a path that goes under Hollywood Way from the Royal Pacific Hotel, and the new hotel is being built right next to that hotel. Closer internet research revealed to me that this bridge will go over Adventure Way, connecting the two hotels, so that pedestrians can get to that path.

Does anyone have a link that shows where this bridge will be built, so I can see if I have the right idea?

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Friday, February 15, 2013 11:10 AM

I just HAVE to chime in on this. I am a Coaster Enthusiast, but for the last 12 years I have also been a Florida resident, and I can tell you the Traffic Laws in Florida are a MESS! We have signals that can keep you waiting 5 minutes or longer, causing drivers to waste expensive fuel while they wait for the signal to change. It doesn't matter if you are driving a leviathan of an RV or a Motor Scooter, when both of you are stuck at an intersection BOTH of you ARE GETTING THE SAME MILEAGE, ZERO MILES A GALLON. Pedestrian Signals are not synchronized to the Traffic Lights, which is an accident waiting to happen. Sensors in the intersections often don't detect small vehicles such as Motorcycles, resulting in tie ups because the signals "think" nobody is at an intersection, when in fact there is a line of 20 or more automobiles behind a Biker who's stuck there because the signal refuses to give him green. We also have 'Gauntlets" of traffic signals that all turn red seconds before you approach them, causing you to consume time and fuel as you attempt to get where you want. These laws need to get CHANGED, and I wish I could be a lobbyist advocating these changes.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 12:24 PM

That sounds about right, Travis. The new hotel will be on the other side of that road. I assume this means no water taxi extension, or they would just build under the road.

The bridge will live in the private right-of-way, so why wouldn't it be paid for this way? Whether it maintains car or pedestrian traffic shouldn't matter. Unless the city would rather remove the road, what alternative is there?

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Friday, February 15, 2013 12:35 PM

Re: paying down the debt early.

Municipal bonds are usually offered at a pretty good interest rate for the offeror, because earnings are not taxed. That mens the rate can be lower-than-market. There also may not be an early termination clause, in which case they don't have a choice.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 2:04 PM

Universal employs 1000s (I would guess) and contributes millions in taxes (I would guess) and supports dozens of other businesses in the area so I don't think this is a misuse of public funds in any way.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 2:24 PM

Jeff said:
I assume this means no water taxi extension, or they would just build under the road.

It's been confirmed that the new hotel won't have water taxi or express pass.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 2:29 PM

Great, that means they'll probably try to get on at Royal Pacific.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 3:30 PM

Jeff said:
This is why I don't care for the black-and-white ideals people have on stuff like this. The public-private partnerships overall in Central Florida have everything to do with there being an economy at all.

When I submitted, I made an attempt to portray this as a "gray area" issue. I'm not normally a fan of gov't spending that primarily benefits one business - but that's a business that provides a ton of jobs, and brings in boatloads of tax revenue. "Partnerships" that work in the public interest should NOT be blindly shot down just because they involve some spending - growth should be the ultimate goal, and it sounds like the City got this one (mostly) right....

If our Federal government understood that growth is the key to balancing future budgets, MAYBE we could get away from the short-sighted austerity...

Last edited by rollergator, Friday, February 15, 2013 3:32 PM
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Friday, February 15, 2013 3:43 PM

If they would have built the water taxi extension this bridge wouldn't have even been necessary because as Jeff and Travis point out the path would have been made underneath the road like the existing path connecting the Royal Pacific with City Walk. It makes that gray area even more gray.

Last edited by eightdotthree, Friday, February 15, 2013 3:45 PM
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Friday, February 15, 2013 5:16 PM

I would add that it's not fair to lump state and especially local government in with the feds. If you've ever worked for a city, county or school district, you know that you can't simply print money the way the feds do. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 7:51 PM

Just because they keep printing the money doesn't mean it's worth more then the paper it's printed on.

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Friday, February 15, 2013 11:47 PM

That wasn't the point. The point is that local government can't print money or borrow infinitely.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013 12:11 PM

We live in a world of fiat money. It's worth is determined by the government, Corkscrew.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013 9:25 PM

Which is next to nothing Tek. We will be paying for goods and services with gold and silver before too long. If you have any that is.

Last edited by Corkscrew Follies, Saturday, February 16, 2013 9:26 PM
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