development map with code improvements circled in red

Saving Lives: Transportation Planning Division and Public Works Department Awarded for Best Practices in Orange County Code Amendments

Public Health & Safety

Making Florida’s communities livable requires planning and implementation for pedestrian safety and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. This can be challenging, especially for Florida cities, which are ranked highest for pedestrian injuries and fatalities. To address this, Orange County’s Transportation Planning Division and Public Works Department successfully developed and implemented comprehensive Orange County Code/Land Development Code amendments to enhance pedestrian safety and meet ADA needs in site development, streets and sidewalks in the County.

As a result, Orange County has been selected for an American Planning Association (APA) Florida Award of Merit in the Best Practices category. The County will receive this recognition at the 2021 Florida Planning Conference in Miami at the Awards Ceremony, which will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 8:30 a.m.

“We’re very honored to be recognized by the APA,” said Diana M. Almodovar, P.E., Deputy Director of Public Works Department. “This project required a lot of work by a lot of people, but we put together something for the benefit of this community.”

view of widened sidewalk and cross walks from a pedestrian crossing

The project integrated policies and recommendations from the County’s Comprehensive Plan, Sustainability Plan, Walk-Ride-Thrive! pedestrian safety program, and federally-required ADA Self-Evaluation/Transition Plan for public rights-of-way to amend six chapters of the Code/Land Development Code. The ordinance made extensive changes to the Code’s standards for site development and the transportation network countywide, including for special planning areas/overlay districts, to contribute to a safer, more connected, and more accessible built environment and transportation network.

Over a multi-year period, Transportation Planning staff led an interdisciplinary team from Development Engineering, Planning, Zoning, Traffic Engineering, and Building Safety Divisions, with additional reviews from the County Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Protection and Roads and Drainage Divisions. The team researched standards, drafted the ordinance and conducted all public outreach, leading to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners’ adoption on Oct. 13, 2020.

“Our focus was on addressing parts of the code that touched pedestrian safety directly, but also on taking the extra step to comply with best standards we know are available even though they aren’t required at the moment,” explained Alissa Barber Torres, Chief Planner, Orange County Transportation Planning Division, Planning, Environmental & Development Services Department. “We drew together representation from many divisions within the County, and this collaboration enabled us to address the different standards we wanted to meet.”

As soon as the ordinance was adopted, the County immediately proceeded to implement it by applying standards to all new development. Staff provided internal and developer trainings to integrate standards into projects and reviews with minimal disruption and delay.

“This was a five-year process, including development, reviews and revisions and meeting with advisory boards all over the County, so we’ve been committed to making a difference in important areas,” said Torres. “Because these changes were implemented immediately, we’ve already seen a meaningful and immediate impact, which is very gratifying.”

It was also recently announced that the project won the Innovative Transportation Solutions 2021 Award from WTS – Central Florida Chapter, a professional organization for women in transportation and their allies. Almodovar will accept the award at the organization’s annual banquet on September 30 at 5:30 p.m. at Sea World.

For more information on the code amendments, the APA award and the WTS – Central Florida Chapter award,  contact Alissa Barber Torres at Alissa.torres@ocfl.net.

Photo Caption: With adoption of pedestrian safety/ADA-related Code amendments, Orange County’s multifamily development now has wider sidewalks, required pedestrian access points in screen walls, as well as more connected streets and sidewalks, bicycle parking, and ADA curb ramps.

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