Even before bulldozers clear the first dirt, activity swarms around the wooded, 160-acre site that in two years will house the spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.
County traffic data lists three intersections nearest the future stadium and practice field complex as among the most dangerous in West Palm Beach. One of them, at 45th Street and North Military Trail, is the worst in the city.
“The municipalities need to figure out where lights should go in and what upgraded traffic measures should be taken,” said
Tom McNicholas, director of external affairs for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, a spokesman for the teams.
The traffic data, from 2014, pinpoints a number of problem areas for traffic.
One obvious danger spot, the intersection of Okeechobee Boulevard and Military, is not included in the ranking of West Palm’s worst but only because it falls just outside the city boundaries, in unincorporated Palm Beach County.
But many other Okeechobee intersections are among the city’s worst — six of the top 10. And if you’re thinking they should put Okeechobee up in the air, a la Southern Boulevard, there’s no room, according to Mo Al-Turk, the county’s manager of traffic engineering operations.
Three miles north of Okeechobee, the baseball complex is girded by North Military Trial to the east and Haverhill Road N on the west, and is just south of 45th Street.
Where the six lanes of north- and southbound Military Trail cross the six east- and westbound lanes of 45th Street, 80 accidents took place in 2014. The intersection ranked as the city’s worst in the number and rate of crashes. It ranked 16th worst in the county by the number of crashes and 8th worst for the rate of crashes.
Just to the west, 45th Street and Haverhill Road North — a four-lane roadway with a center turn lane — had 31 crashes in 2014, ranking it the 20th most collision-prone in West Palm, 5th worst as far as the rate of accidents, and 8th worst for accident severity. The main entry to the baseball complex will be on Haverhill, just south of that intersection.
On the east side of the complex, near where Shiloh Drive emerges onto N. Military Trail beside Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, there’ll be another entrance to the baseball complex. That intersection of Shiloh and Military had 12 crashes in 2014 and ranked 37th worst in accident severity.
The number of accidents at 45th and Military is high because that’s one of the city’s most congested intersections, according to Al-Turk. “If there’s more traffic through there, it’s plausible to expect more accidents,” he said.
The baseball games won’t necessarily turn the pastime into crash time, however.
“The nice thing about the stadium is that it will tend to generate its peak traffic outside traditional peak traffic periods that happen at these intersections, because of the scheduling of those activities.”
But with the teams scheduled to move in in two years, McNicholas said, they’ll want to know what the city, county and Florida Department of Transportation might do to enhance safety in the area.
According to Al-Turk, traffic studies indicated that a signal would be warranted at the main public entrance to the complex, at Haverhill, with flashing yellow lights when events are not underway.
The team has resisted the idea of a signal.
“Traffic studies show it’s safer without the light at that entrance because you have a signalized spot 100 feet away and all it’s going to do is cause confusion,” McNicholas said.
But it’s up to the various governments with jurisdiction over the roads, he said.
“It’s their decision,” he said.
West Palm’s 10 most accident-prone intersections
1. North Military Trail and 45th Street.
2. Okeechobee Boulevard and Wabasso Drive/Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.
3. North Jog Road and Okeechobee Boulevard.
4. Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Spencer Drive/Village Boulevard.
5. Indian Road and Okeechobee Boulevard.
6. Okeechobee Boulevard. and North State Road 7.
7. North Robbins Drive and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.
8. Okeechobee Boulevard and South Tamarind Avenue/Parker Avenue.
9. Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and West Executive Center Drive.
10. South Congress Avenue and Okeechobee Boulevard.
Have a news tip or story idea? Contact Staff Writer Tony Doris at email@example.com or 561-820-4703.