With Universal’s Epic Universe theme park scheduled to open by the summer of 2025 in Orlando, road construction has begun on the Kirkman Road extension project — the addition of 1.7 miles of road that will stretch from Carrier Drive through Sand Lake Road and down to Universal Boulevard, near the Orange County Convention Center.
The project is a public-private partnership between Orange County, Universal and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), construction actually started two years ago with underground utilities, but construction is now visible and can be seen by anyone driving by. The project is scheduled to be completed near the end of 2024.
Orange County is providing $125 million in funding to the project, Universal $160 million and a grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity $16 million. The grant was written with input from Lockheed Martin, the Orange County Convention Center, Universal and the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
The extension will provide another north-south corridor and ease congestion in an Orlando area that already draws millions of convention goers and tourists every year. With the anticipation of additional growth around I-Drive, the project has been in the County’s long-term plans for more than 30 years.
“This will give drivers a much-needed alternate route as the area prepares to welcome Epic Universe,” said Darrell Moody, Public Relations & Outreach Specialist, Orange County Public Works. “This stretch can be particularly challenging with traffic, so having the ability to avoid some of that congestion will be a welcome relief.”
One of the main features of the Central Florida extension is an elevated traffic circle that will keep traffic running smoothly near Universal properties. Not only will this help the flow of traffic, but the massive structure will serve as an iconic regional landmark. The project is fully multimodal, providing bicycle/pedestrian facilities, three traffic lanes in each direction for general use, and dedicated bus lanes that will assist in distributing traffic to the theme parks. Other features will include enhanced lighting and landscaping.
“Between major expansions to the Convention Center and Universal poised to develop on more than 750 acres of land, the extension was imperative,” said Moody. “We can offer great attractions, but if people can’t navigate their way to and from them in a timely and convenient manner, it defeats the purpose of having them.”
“I’m certain this extension will be a welcomed improvement to the roadway network,” added Moody. “It’s also a great example of how public-private partnerships can truly benefit an entire region.”
Construction also recently started on Catchlight Crossings, an affordable housing community, which is another public-private partnership, between Universal Orlando Resort, Wendover Housing Partners and Orange County, Florida Government.