Residents, leaders tell state what they want for Southern Boulevard


More lanes, fewer stoplights, access roads, elevated lanes.

State transportation planners heard all of that and more Wednesday during interview sessions with residents and community leaders about the future of Southern Boulevard, also known as State Road 80.

The interviews, which continue today until 4 p.m., will help shape a proposal that the Florida Department of Transportation will share with the public next summer on ways to meet projected traffic increases over the next 20 years on a 45-mile stretch of the road from Interstate 95 to South Bay.

The DOT hopes to adopt a formal plan by the fall of 2017.

“This is a two-year study and we’re just at the beginning,’’ said Poorna Bhattacharya, one of four DOT consultants who helped conduct the interviews, which started in Belle Glade on Monday.

“This is an open forum: What are your issues with State Road 80? We want to get everybody’s perspective.’’

At two separate conference tables inside Village Council chambers, six DOT planners and consultants rolled out expansive maps of the county and listened to ideas and suggestions.

Russell Mir, a Riviera Beach resident, asked about eliminating stoplights at Kirk and Cleary roads so he could enjoy a smoother ride to his job in Royal Palm Beach. “The way it is now, you are cruising along, then you suddenly come to a stop,” he said.

Barbara Powell said she was worried about placing access roads to businesses, like the one planned for a proposed gas station at the northwest corner of Southern and Royal Palm Beach boulevards.

“If (Southern Boulevard) is going to be a highway, that (entrance) will become a choke hold for traffic,’’ she said.

Representatives from the county’s parks department asked about elevating a small stretch of Southern near 20-Mile Bend to allow recreation trails from the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area to connect south to trails in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Jay Foy, engineer for the Indian Trail Improvement District, which governs The Acreage, asked about ways to limit traffic flow. One option could be to divert traffic on less-traveled roads like Belvedere Road and Okeechobee Boulevard.

“It’s not a real interstate (highway) but it’s functioning more like an interstate than a normal collector road or arterial road,’’ he said of Southern Boulevard.

The DOT conducted 17 interviews in Belle Glade, said consultant Jessica Josselyn. Participants ranged from municipal leaders who expressed a desire to protect the road’s small-town character in South Bay and Belle Glade to representatives of agriculture and sugar industries concerned about the adequate flow of freight.

The public also can offer comments online at kittelson.com/SR80ActionPlan.


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