Bridge at Universal Orlando Target of Controversy

Speaking of all the construction in and around Universal Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel reported this week that a pedestrian bridge connecting the new 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort with Universal Orlando will be paid for with taxpayer funds. The estimated cost is $9 million for the bridge and related improvements.

The bridge would be owned by the city and located in a city right-of-way, but used almost exclusively by visitors to the resort.

It’s generating more than a bit of controversy given the profits made by Universal especially since the funding is tricky. According to the Sentinel:

The funds will come from a special taxing district around Universal Orlando called a Community Redevelopment Area. It was formed in 1995 for the sole purpose of building an interchange at Interstate 4 and Universal Boulevard to serve Universal. It still exists because the bonds issued to pay for that work won’t be paid off until 2025.

In addition the cost of the bridge would add $1 million to the annual CRA debt payment, and funds must be pulled from the city’s reserves, which has already been tapped to the tune of $29.5 million. The CRA designation is controversial in itself.

Parent company Comcast Corp. reports that Universal Parks and Resorts generated just under $1 billon in 2012 up almost 10 percent from last year.

Completion of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort is expected in 2014. Final approval of the funding is needed from city and county commissioners; that is planned for March or April.


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