District 5 County Commission candidate Gregory Eisenberg is the Regional Director for Asset Campus Housing at UCF, and he thinks Orange County should have acted earlier to make the area around UCF and Alafaya Trail safer for pedestrians.
Eisenberg talked to Orlando Rising about the two UCF-affiliated properties he manages, Knights Circle and The Point at Central. Knights Circle, he said, is right across the street from UCF, but no one who lives there actually walks to school. The reason for that, he said, is because of how dangerous it is to cross the street.
“I can throw a paper plane and I stink at throwing paper planes, and I could hit the school,” he said. “But nobody walks, because it’s that unsafe.”
The county is currently conducting the UCF Alafaya Pedestrian Safety Study, which aims to assess and solve the problem by making things safer for pedestrians. Some of their talked-about solutions include fences along the sidewalks, larger grass medians and wider bike lanes.
Eisenberg said they weren’t doing enough.
“It’s a day late, a dollar short,” he said. “It’s been 13 years. The school didn’t get this big overnight. It’s been growing, and the county has been a bad partner for the school, for local businesses and for local residents.”
He said he wanted to see more synergy with downtown Orlando and the west side of town like Winter Park, which would help make better job opportunities.
Fellow District 5 candidate Timothy McKinney said he supported much of what the county planned to do to address the problem, but said it was unfortunate that incumbent commissioner Ted Edwards hadn’t done anything about it sooner.
“It’s sad that there has been no leadership from our current commissioner,” he said. “He is either oblivious or woefully ignorant to the realities that people face as pedestrians in that area.”
Another District 5 contender, environmental activist Emily Bonilla, said she liked what the study intended to do, especially its plan to potentially plant trees bordering the sidewalk, which could add shade and protection for pedestrians. But she also thought the study had a whiff of election-year pandering.
“It feels like they were waiting for an election year,” she said. “Now they’re thinking about this.”
Edwards issued a statement via email Wednesday afternoon: “Orange County is holding a community meeting tomorrow evening to gather citizen input to maximize the effectiveness of the safety improvements proposed in the UCF Area Pedestrian Safety Study. Orange County has worked with partners, including the Florida Department of Transportation and UCF, and has spent $356,625 to design numerous safety improvements along Alafaya Trail, University Boulevard, and McCulloch Road. An additional $4.5 million in INVEST Program funding has been set aside for construction of these needed improvements.”