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Learn more about Southern interchange project at upcoming workshop

The Florida Department of Transportation is having an open house Dec. 1 on its plans for the Interstate 95 interchange at Southern Boulevard.

An October presentation by FDOT to the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization Board about the project grew tense, as board members expressed concern for what they said was a lack of communication from the state, particularly regarding the need for the work to be done.

Thursday’s workshop, which is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a presentation at 6 p.m., will review the options being considered by the state as it plans for an expected surge in traffic at the interchange over the next 10 to 15 years.

The project is in the very early planning stages, with engineers and consultants now reviewing options for what could be done to make sure the interchange can handle the amount of traffic it’s estimated to see over the next two decades.

Final design of the project is slated for 2021. The state would buy right-of-way in 2022 and construction would happen in 2024. The estimated cost of design and construction of the project is about $82 million, with another $6 million set aside to buy right-of-way.

At the October presentation, MPO board members and area residents expressed concerns the project could negatively affect nearby homes in Cloud Lake and the Vedado historic neighborhood of West Palm Beach. They also questioned the need for the project.

Among the options for the interchange discussed in October are adding one or two flyovers, adding or changing lane configurations on all of the ramps, updating signals and widening bike lanes.

Anson Sonnett, project manager for FDOT, said Thursday’s workshop will be geared more toward residents and “a lot less technical” than the presentation made to the MPO Board. Residents will be able to see the options for the interchange on large boards with details showing potential effects of the work. FDOT planners and consultants will be on hand to speak one-on-one with residents and answer questions.

“It’s a much better format,” Sonnett said.

In October, several members of the MPO Board had asked how the team working on the Southern interchange was communicating with another team doing a comprehensive study of the Southern Boulevard corridor. Sonnett said planners for the Southern study will have a table at Thursday’s workshop where residents can ask questions.

Residents who cannot attend the workshop this week will be able to find all documents from the presentation after Thursday on the project’s website, Sonnett said those with questions or comments can call him at 954-777-4474.

Work is planned for nearly every I-95 interchange in Palm Beach County over the next 20 years, part of the state’s efforts to take a long-range look at traffic levels along major arteries.

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