Universal Gets County Approval for Pedestrian Bridge
April 9th, 2013 | WMFE- Orange County Commissioners have cleared the way for the city of Orlando to use tax dollars to build a pedestrian bridge connecting Universal Studios theme park with a new 1800 room hotel the company is building. The city can now issue about $9.5 million dollars of tax incremental bonds from a Community Redevelopment Area to pay for the bridge over Hollywood Way.
John McReynolds, Universal Parks and Resorts' head of external affairs, told commissioners at a meeting tuesday the hotel and other expansion would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax base to the area.
He said the bridge would also improve the flow of traffic as drivers cut through Universal to get onto I4.
Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell, who voted in favor of the funding, said it’s a public safety issue.
“What Orlando- Orange County cannot afford as a brand, is a place that is not safe for pedestrians who visit here," said Moore Russell.
"So that is an overall public policy concern. I know we’re trying to diversify our economy but when it comes to tourism and our visitors, we can’t afford any negative hits," she said.
The original CRA was created in 1996 to fund improvements at the Republic Drive I4 Interchange. Tax revenue is split between the city and the county.
Three commissioners voted against 100 % public funding of the bridge, including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
"I think there are two questions here that are still gnawing at me," said Jacobs.
"That is- would this project not go forward without this, and should the public pay 100% when there's a substantial gain to the private entity," she said.