Vote of the week: What's the worst intersection in Orlando?

August 12, 2010, 7:45 PM · ORLANDO, Florida - Driving around Central Florida this week has reminded me of one of my least favorite parts of visiting the Orlando-area theme parks: Nasty traffic.

You can avoid much of the hassle by staying on-property at Walt Disney World or the Universal Orlando Resort, and never venturing away from the parks. But for more most visitors, getting stuck in one of the Orlando area's notorious intersections has become part of the vacation experience.

Remember that Florida's just a thin crust of rock, floating on the ocean. Sinkholes abound, forming lakes that make it impossible to maintain any sort of coherent street grid. So traffic flows along meandering arterial routes that intersect with nasty jams at certain times of day.

We've been talking on the discussion board about a few of the worst. So here are our nominees for worst intersection in the Orlando-area theme park zone:

State Road 535, between Apopka Vineland and Hotel Plaza Blvd. - This is a "double intersection": Both were nominated, but it's impossible to separate the two, since each contributes to the other's problem. If you've ever tried to drive to the Crossroads shopping plaza, or the Hotel Plaza, you've been stuck in this mess.

International Drive and Sand Lake Road - Sand Lake separates the older, north end of I-Drive from the southern end. (It's where the Perkins is.) And all I-Drive traffic seems to get collected at this intersection at some point. (And that's a lot of traffic!)

Sand Lake Road and Turkey Lake Road - This is the intersection on Sand Lake on the other side of I-4. Once a simple intersection, the "back way" into Universal Orlando to the north and a Whole Foods/Walmart development to the south made this intersection a nightmare approaching its twin to the east.

International Drive and Universal Blvd. - On the northern end of I-Drive, this intersection's the home of Wet n' Wild, plus a huge amount of traffic heading into the Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, Universal Express won't allow you to skip this line.

International Drive and Central Florida Pkwy. - On the southern end of I-Drive, this entrance to the SeaWorld theme parks also collects a lot of north-bound traffic heading into the Orange County Convention Center. And if there's an accident on I-4, everyone bails out here, clogging this intersection.

So, what's your pick? Tell us your traffic horror stories, in the comments.

And thank you for reading Theme Park Insider!

Replies (14)

August 12, 2010 at 11:24 PM · International drive seems to be the problem here.....
August 13, 2010 at 2:41 AM · I work in traffic reporting for Orlando and let me tell you...we have an accident at 535 and Hotel Plaza several times per week. I see that one pop up on the screen so regularly, that it has become almost funny. Sand Lake and Turkey Lake is a close second, but 535 totally gets my vote.
August 13, 2010 at 5:26 AM · As a Brit who has driven in Orlando, I have to say that the traffic is really not that bad. Or maybe its the fact that when I'm stuck in traffic here, I'm on my way to work, whereas in Orlando, I'm just happy to be there!! :)
August 13, 2010 at 7:07 AM · I live in Orlando and even I dread I-Drive and Sand lake! What a nightmare...The worlds largest Mcdonalds(which is packed pretty much 24/7 + entry/exit to I-4 within the same vicinity= very confused tourists, crazy desperate/no sense driving because OMG they missed their turn due to paying attention to the gazillion other distractions on I-drive in that same intersection. Word of caution to those who have not traversed this area before, try to stay away and find some way around this madness or if you go towards this intersection its a tad better around 4 am.

Happy travels to all :)

August 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM · As a local I would admit all of those intersections are bad, but also being a local you find different routes to avoid the tourist back up.

I-Drive will always be a nasty congested parking lot during any peak season. Right now it can take 30 minutes plus to get from Wet'N"crappy to Sandlake. Once across its not so bad, unless there is a big convention in town, then you're pretty much screwed.

Ways to avoid I-Drive is to use Universal Blvd as much as you can. There are plenty of roads connecting the two.

You can also scoot along Turkey Lake from Universal to Disney, with just a small detour for Seaworld, and its generally quick and painless.
This really helps bypass the i4 westbound, especially when the parks close around Universal and Disney, which can be very stop start.

And finally, for anyone staying on I-Drive, think about getting an I-Ride Trolley when out in the evenings, or heading to Seaworld. $1.25 gets you on (Free for Kids and Grandparents), with plenty of stops from Prime to Premium, including Seaworld and Aquatica. Daily, weekly and bi weekly passes are also available, saving you Gas/Cab money andit gives you some freedome to explore everything International drive has to offer.

August 13, 2010 at 12:07 PM · Thanks for those tips!
August 15, 2010 at 2:39 AM · I agree with Gareth that you are better off taking Universal to bypass I-drive. There is less traffic and fewer stop lights. The worst intersection in my opinion is 436 and I-4. The lights are so slow you can fall asleep and at certain times of day the traffic is backed up to 17-92.
August 13, 2010 at 6:40 PM · I chose I-Drive and Central Fla. What really makes that area a nightmare is a convention. If there's a convention in town I-Drive will be backed up from the convention center toward 528 on back to Sea World to Central Fla pkwy. One could easily spend an hours trying to make that 3 minute drive. Another way to avoid I-Drive would be to take John Young pkwy, it pretty much runs the same route as I-Drive. John Young does get a lot of traffic, but very few are tourist. It will take you from 417 and the Oceola pkwy to Sand Lake and beyond. Anything to avoid I-Drive.
August 13, 2010 at 3:26 PM · I've driven a taxi for 10 years in the attractions area. Simple tip BE ALERT. A large percentage of the drivers are reading maps while driving. They been riding roller coasters and eating large amounts of sugar all day. Be very careful around wonder works and the Disney entrance signs. I've seen people stop in the middle of the road and get out and take pictures. We love our guests and with economy the way it is we can't afford to lose any of them.
August 13, 2010 at 7:50 PM · Definitely I-Drive... all sections of it!!! Ughhhh. and of course, I-4 near the theme parks and ESPECIALLY when the parks close.

ooooOooo here's one not mentioned. Have you ever gotten stuck on the road 408??? I got sooooo lost on that road when heading to UCF from the parks... and every freakin' exit has a toll of 50 cents. BAM! $4.00 gone quickly. At one point, my carmates and I jumped out of the car and were searching the ground for dropped quarters.

August 14, 2010 at 6:08 AM · Hey Tourists! Your best bet is to book your stay at one of the resort hotels and stay there (and no, I am not an employee or marketing agent for one of the parks).

Locals know some routes to skirt around the mess. I for one will not share those detours with TPI readers as they won't be good ways to miss the traffic for us anymore!

I-drive always was and always will be a mess. Get used to it. Sometimes we like to park somewhere on I-Drive and walk it as it is an Orlando attraction on its own. One example is Pointe Orlando that has experienced a renaissance in recent years and will continue to thrive with the expansion and improvements of the Convention Center.

Locals and smart tourists do NOT use I-Drive as a means to commute, but if you are south of the I-Drive/Sand Lake intersection you can actually move pretty quickly to Sea World and Disney.

For the person who got lost on 408....Don't drive! There is only one exit for I-4 on 408 and if you can't figure that out......Just saying.

August 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM · I vote for any I-4 any exit off of I-4. Anywhere between 192 and Lake Mary 20 miles the other side of downtown. Rush hour on the other side of town is far worse than the parks. The toll roads, if you can afford them, are generally pretty good though 408 and 528 can get a little ugly.

Every week 15 percent of the traffic changes in the attractions area and do not know the road. I-4 is really confusing for people as it is a North-South road through Orlando though accurately labeled East-West road overall.

The price of the toll roads drives lots of local traffic onto I-4 making it unbearable. You quickly spend 20-35 cents a mile for tolls on most of the toll roads. Three different agencies run the toll roads and each want their cut. Orange county and the state run different parts of the same toll roads.

Of the listed roads, I vote for I-drive and Sand Lake. There are ways around it with a good GPS. Use Universal Dr for North-South and either 528 or Kirkman for East-West.

August 15, 2010 at 6:55 PM · I've never had any traffic problems when driving in Orlando, but I only done so in October and late February or early March.
August 16, 2010 at 11:49 AM · I live in the Dr Phillips area and work near Sand Lake and John Young. It takes me 30 minutes on a good day to drive the 8.5 miles home. On a bad day, no matter which route I take, Sand Lake to Apopka Vineland or Sand Lake to Universal Blvd to Turkey Lake to Conroy-Windermere or Sand Lake to Kirkman to Conroy-Windermere, it's at least an hour. When the big conventions like the PGA show, the Home Builders and travel Pow Wow are in town, I suggest sedatives before you get in your car, you will need them.

I HATE the Sand Lake and Turkey Lake intersection with a passion. The only semi sane way I have found to get past it is to stay in the left lane westbound on Sand Lake until I get past Turkey Lake. If you stay in the right lane, forget it, you will be there for years and they will find you in your car one day like Rip Van Winkle.

A word of advice to all tourists, if you are going westbound on Sand Lake towards International Drive, stay out of the right lane, it will take you 3 times as long to get through that intersection mostly because of all the people walking across International Drive, daring you to hit them.

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