A long-awaited highway interchange with a direct route from Interstate 95 to Florida Atlantic University will likely open in February — welcome news to drivers awaiting traffic relief on Boca Raton’s most congested thoroughfare.
The interchange at Spanish River Boulevard, between Yamato and Glades roads, is partially open to drivers. But all ramps are expected to open by February, weather permitting, said Andrea Pacini, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation.
That can’t come soon enough for motorists who have endured years of road closures and heavy traffic.
“I spend about 15 to 20 minutes on Glades Road every morning just from I-95 (to FAU). It’s not fun,” said Jeffrey Kolenich, a senior at Florida Atlantic University who commutes from his home in Jupiter. “(The Spanish River interchange) will be a huge help.”
The fifth Boca Raton interchange is expected to bring relief to Glades Road, the city’s main artery and one of the most heavily-traveled east-west thoroughfares in the county.
The interchange also might spark development on the quiet 3-mile stretch of Spanish River Boulevard, a largely suburban and industrial area with the 1.7 million-square-foot Boca Raton Innovation Campus to the west of Interstate 95 and a stretch of homes, office buildings and small shopping strips to the east.
Construction on the $69 million interchange project has been in the works for about four years — since Kolenich started studying at the Boca Raton university.
“The construction has been more of a headache than it’s worth for me,” he said. “I’ll graduate before it’s open.”
In those four years, construction has shut down ramps and lanes of I-95 and rerouted drivers.
In addition to the interchange itself, crews also are adding auxiliary lanes to Yamato Road, building sound walls along Yamato and on the east side of I-95 north of Yamato, and widening Spanish River Boulevard.
The southbound on-ramp and northbound off-ramp at Spanish River opened earlier this year.
But more anticipated is the southbound off-ramp, which will give drivers coming from the north a direct route to FAU through its entrance on Spanish River Boulevard.
That route is expected to ease traffic woes for football fans attending games, who will have a short path from I-95 to the stadium on the campus’ north end.
The state’s transportation department has halted construction during stadium events, as it did Tuesday for the Boca Raton Bowl when thousands crawled bumper-to-bumper to the on-campus stadium.
“As bad as traffic is on a normal day, it’s worse on game day,” said Alan Goldberg, a Boca Raton resident who attended the game, which drew a larger-than-normal crowd as it featured Florida Atlantic in its home stadium.
While heavy traffic is unavoidable during major events, Glades Road endures its fair share of congestion on any given day.
“Sometimes I take the back ways to get onto the campus to avoid Glades, but back ways are even more backed up,” said Sam Stein, a junior at FAU who lives just a few miles off campus. “I think once Spanish River opens, it’ll be a big relief.”