Fender benders with buses, traffic snarls at the Magic Kingdom parking entrance, and overall growth are fueling transportation projects throughout Walt Disney World.
The resort is making several improvements over the next few years to move vehicles more efficiently.
There will be a vote next month on approving the issuance of $80 million in bonds for a third Disney Springs parking garage. Already, $350 million has been approved for projects scheduled for completion by 2018. Those include a 2-mile Western Way extension, a bridge taking hotel traffic over the Magic Kingdom’s toll plaza, and a bypass providing better access to Floridian Way.
Reedy Creek, the Disney-controlled taxing district, is overseeing the projects.
It has already paid $365 million for Disney Springs-area improvements, including two parking garages, to accommodate the entertainment district’s growth.
Those garages are on Buena Vista Drive’s north side. Disney hadn’t originally planned for the third one to the south.
But Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said planners want to reduce left turns and illegal U-turns drivers are making to park. Those have resulted in minor collisions with Disney buses “on a couple of rare occasions,” he said.
The third garage “is a way to kind of minimize some of those conflicts,” he said. “Either way you come to Disney Springs, either from the west or the east, you’ll have a chance to turn right into a parking garage.”
That, he said, would be “easier and faster and safer.”
The structure would open by mid-2019.
Other projects will help accommodate expansion including Hollywood Studios’ future Toy Story and Star Wars lands and an Avatar area opening soon at Animal Kingdom.
Also, the Flamingo Crossings commercial development at Disney World’s western edge has opened its first hotels. Disney does not operate those. Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, however, recently told analysts “we believe that it would be smart for us to build more hotels out” here.
Former Disney executive Duncan Dickson said a Western Way extension — which will be raised at one point to allow pedestrians to walk underneath — would probably lead to more lodging.
“That’s hotel development out there,” he said of the expansion from near State Road 429 to County Road 545. “The west gate area is the logical place for that.”
Rival Universal Orlando recently announced plans for its sixth resort. Its corporate owners would like to add thousands more hotel rooms as well.
“Iger’s saying, ‘If you’re going to do that, we’re going to expand our hotels,'” Dickson said. “It’s a battle.”
Though many are skeptical about the possibility of a fifth Disney theme park, Dickson thinks more hotels could eventually lead to that. “If you build a bunch of new hotels, you’ve got to fill them with somebody,” he said. “If you build a new park and it’s the right kind, who knows?”
Classe said development in the Western Way corridor could be “any number of things.”
Western Way could eventually be expanded by other governments to U.S. Highway 27 in Clermont, he said.
Lake County engineer Fred Schneider said officials have begun work on a road system that would eventually connect to Western Way.
Orange County spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet said in an email it is part of the county’s long-range plan, but there have been no “serious discussions” on it.
Bonds for the projects must be approved by residents on Disney property — former and current employees selected by the corporation to live there specifically to provide the votes for such issues.
The other projects include a flyover taking World Drive over the Magic Kingdom toll plaza for travelers heading to hotels such as the Contemporary and Polynesian. Right now hotel visitors must drive through the parking plaza, though they don’t pay. Those who drive in toward the left, though, must cross over several lanes to reach the hotels.
A reconfiguration of an interchange southeast of Hollywood Studios will create a flyover taking Osceola Parkway traffic over Victory Way.
And on Disney’s north side, a new extension of Center Drive to Floridian Way will enable traffic to bypass back-of-the-house areas. The roads in that area are generally used by employees and cut-through traffic rather than Disney visitors.
“Growth has continued in Orange County, particularly in the northwest part of the district. That growth is now just right on our edge,” Classe said. “There’s actually people cutting through the district because we’re right there.”
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