When tourists think of Orlando, they think of theme parks, shopping and warm, sunny weather. But when East Orlando residents think of their neck of the woods, they think of traffic and construction, both of which are currently affecting South Alafaya Trail.
The stretch of Alafaya from Curry Ford to Avalon Park Boulevard is being widened from two to four lanes with construction expected to be completed in Sept. 2013. Until then, then road will be torn, traffic will be delayed and frustrations will be high – even higher than usual.
Local businesses along the road are also forced to cope and adapt to these changes, and for some, it’s been a challenge.
The faculty and staff at The Providence Academy, which is located in the Waterford Lakes Professional Park, are already seeing the effects of the construction. Alicia Braccia, executive director of the academy, says that traffic is usually heavy heading south toward Avalon Park Boulevard and that making a left turn even before the construction began into the academy parking lot was already a challenge.
“So in terms of drop-off procedures, they have to come earlier to turn left,” says Braccia. Although attendance hasn’t dropped off yet at either the academy or at its sister therapy organization, which is located in the same building, Braccia is worried that fewer new and existing clients will show up.
A lack of clientele isn’t affecting On Mission Martial Arts, located just south of The Providence Academy in the Alafaya Village, but the traffic is.
“We’ve had times where instructors or students have run into unexpected traffic,” says Marco Fiorentino, a sensei at On Mission. “[We've been] informing people they may want to make sure they’re not late for class. But I’m fortunate that our hours are different [3-9 p.m.], so we miss some of the worst of the traffic.”
Students at both The Providence Academy and On Mission Martial Arts are also facing the challenge of finding safe transportation to and from class.
Some of the high school students at The Providence Academy participate in a school-to-work program that allows them to work at Publix after school. Those students used to be able to walk to work, but now they must find a new alternative.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get them to work without renting a bus,” says Braccia.
The students at On Mission Martial Arts who used to be able to bike to the facility must also find an alternative way to get to class. “We have a lot of students that are from Avalon Park and it’s not convenient right now for people to ride their bike [to class],” says Fiorentino.
Some of the issues relate to more than just traffic. The students and faculty at The Providence Academy received an unexpected surprise from some of the construction machinery recently.
“When the machines were drilling, it was causing a vibration that almost felt like an earthquake,” says Braccia. The loud noise and the earthquake-like vibrations that came from the machinery upset the autistic students, who tend to be sensory sensitive.
The businesses along Alafaya aren’t the only things being disrupted along Alafaya – the wildlife is as well. Fiorentino says that he’s seen an increase in wildlife activity, including a rise in the number of snakes, around his business. Fiorentino believes the construction is directly to blame for displacing the animals.
When the construction is complete, both Braccia and Fiorentino feel that it will be beneficial to both businesses and residents along South Alafaya. Braccia hopes that a traffic light will be erected near the Waterford Lakes Professional Park and Fiorentino hopes that more stores will move into the relatively empty Alafaya Village complex.
“There’s very little traffic in the Alafaya Village and not many stores, which may be because of the construction,” he says.
Article by Marisa Ramiccio