Expansion set to double Villages size by 2040, so will roads become one big traffic jam?
Story: Joe Angione
When I moved to the Villages in 1997, there were 12,000 homes spread compactly on both sides of Route 27/441. Most were single- and double-wide manufacturer-built units in the Village of Orange Blossom Gardens. The Spanish Springs commercial area was almost completed, and larger, site-built homes were springing up in Hacienda Hills. The Villages seemed big then. But today’s Villages is enormous compared to when I moved here. Now there are more than 132,000 residents living in 70,000 homes spread across 32 square miles. Long-time residents like me are finding that getting around in the Villages becomes more difficult each year.
The extra heavy traffic on Village roads normally seen during the “snowbird” season has now become routine throughout the year. Snowbirds don’t seem to be going back north anymore. Crime and soaring living costs up there have driven many former birds to nest here all year long.
This has led to daily congestion on roads like Morse Blvd., El Camino Real, Buena Vista Blvd., Avenida Central, Routes 466 and 466A. Often, there’s a few minutes wait to gain access to a major road or street from my village. And if I’m going to a doctor’s appointment, I add another 10 minutes to find a parking space. Getting around won’t get any easier from now on. But Villages management continues to promote an active, on-the-go lifestyle that means residents are constantly in their cars and golf carts.
The Villages is the new “mecca” for people fed up with life in big cities like New York, Boston and Chicago. To accommodate them, Villages management has expansion projects divided into three areas: In Area A, the original Village of Southern Oaks, 24,845 new homes are planned, along with 2.5 million square feet of commercial space. Area B, south of County Road 470, will see 18,413 more homes built and 2.3 million square feet of commercial space added. Area C, south of the Coleman federal prison, will expand by 16,191 additional homes and about 3 million square feet of commercial space.
Future traffic resulting from these expansions is expected to generate 35,932 additional vehicle trips daily by 2040. New roadways are planned for these areas, but it’s unknown if this road construction can handle all the new traffic. Village travel may require more patience than ever before.