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West Palm’s perfect traffic storm — Trump, boat show, bridge construction


Highlights

Boat show, bridge work, potential presidential visit, expected to jam West Palm and Palm Beach with traffic.

Though north bridge traffic will remain squeezed to two lanes for construction and A1A access to south bridge traffic potentially restricted by the president’s presence this weekend and maybe next, at least next weekend the middle Royal Park bridge will stay easy and breezy for motorists, providing much needed-access through downtown during this busy snowbird season.

Except, oh, that’s right — the boat show.

Judging by previous years’ estimates, 50,000 people can be expected to visit West Palm’s waterfront from March 23 through 26, jamming downtown roads and docks near the foot of the middle bridge to see $1.2 billion worth of yachts docked hull-to-hull for the 32nd Annual Palm Beach International Boat Show.

No word yet on whether President Trump will be in town next weekend. If he were, traffic around South Ocean Boulevard and A1A to the south would be restricted, except to locals with the proper windshield placards.

“It would be a complete disaster,” Palm Beach Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin told the Palm Beach Daily News. “We thought we had the perfect storm already.”

West Palm studies how best to get around the city

West Palm Beach already has begin restricting roads as preparations begin for the boat show, as yachts begin their annual migration along the Intracoastal Waterway and South Flagler Drive makes way for trailers, exotic cars and exhibit booths.

The city’s popular waterfront GreenMarket has been cancelled for the boat fair weekend, as have the weekly Clematis by Night festivities that would have been held Thursday, March 23.

There’ve been a lot of concerned conversations about what might be done to ease the pain but no definitive answers, said Raphael Clemente, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. Clemente said he’s been speaking with Blouin and West Palm police.

Key closures:

  • Northbound Flagler Drive between Lakeview Avenue and Banyan Boulevard will remain closed through Friday, March 31 at 5 p.m; Two lanes will remain open heading south, for now.
  • Narcissus Avenue between Evernia Street and Datura Street are closed through Wednesday, March 29 at 5 p.m.
  • Southbound Flagler, between Lakeview and Banyan, will close at 5 p.m., Sunday, meaning that both northbound and southbound Flagler will be closed at that point.
  • Southbound Flagler reopens Tuesday at 5 p.m.
  • All lanes of Flagler will reopen on Friday, March 31, at 5 p.m.

In years past, downtown has been busy but navigable during the boat show. This year, how much extra traffic the bridge work and presidential detours might funnel through the middle bridge is anyone’s guess.

“We’ll have to do the best we can to mitigate it,” Blouin said.

Looking ahead, word came from the Florida Department of Transportation this week that the opening of the new Flagler Memorial Bridge, or north bridge, won’t take place in late April early May as had been anticipated. Construction complications mean it won’t be done until June, FDOT spokeswoman Barbara Kelleher said.

Construction of the new Southern Boulevard bridges was scheduled to start immediately after the north bridge finished. But Kelleher said Wednesday the north bridge delays won’t delay the Southern project, whose first weeks of work involve starting temporary bridges and won’t block traffic.

Palm Beach Daily News staff writer Eleanor Roy and Palm Beach Post staff writer Kristina Webb contributed to this story.



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