Downtown West Palm Beach’s main east-west artery — Okeechobee Boulevard — will be blocked for four days next month as All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service lays track for its passenger rail.
A detour route has yet to be decided for the roadwork, scheduled to start Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m. and end Tuesday, May 17, at 6 p.m.
Both eastbound and westbound Okeechobee will close at the Florida East Coast Railway tracks during that period, spokeswoman Ali Soule said. Workers will be at the site 24 hours a day, she said.
“All Aboard Florida worked closely with the City of West Palm Beach and Town of Palm Beach to determine the schedule and closure details,” Spokeswoman Ali Soule said. “We collectively decided this plan would be the least impactful and less confusing for the public.”
All Aboard Florida has been closing railroad crossings up and down the state’s east coast periodically, including several smaller intersections in West Palm Beach in recent weeks, as it works to install a second set of tracks on the FEC line.
As part of the rail work, Brightline is also making safety upgrades needed to silence train horns at rail intersections from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach.
Roughly 60 percent of the work has already been completed at intersections in West Palm Beach, the company said.
In Broward County, roads as heavily trafficked as Broward and Hallendale Beach Boulevards also have undergone rail surgery of similar scope to the Okeechobee project.
Crossing closures at Ocean Avenue and Pine Street have caused traffic backups in Lantana for the past several days, the town’s Mayor David Stewart said.
When Stewart heard Brightline planned to close the Hypoluxo Road crossing this week, he told Town Manager Debbie Manzo three is too much. Manzo informed Brightline, who postponed the Hypoluxo construction because of potential traffic issues in the area.
“Traffic has been burdensome for people along U.S. 1 and from South Palm Beach, Manalapan and Hypoluxo Island,” he said. “It’s unacceptable for them to have more than one crossing closed at one time.”
West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen said the railroad will be working with downtown businesses and notifying the public.
“We have been working together for weeks now on picking times and coming up with plans to minimize the impact we are going to have on people,” Cohen said.
Cohen said All Aboard had planned to complete the Okeechobee work in April but delayed construction by a month at the request of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach officials.
The tracks run beside Quadrille Boulevard downtown, leading into the new $29 million Brightline station, which is under construction just north of CityPlace.
Brightline plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando.
The company plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017. All Aboard had said the West Palm Beach-to-Orlando segment would begin by the end of 2017 but a top company official said this month that the second phase may be slightly delayed.
Staff writer Alexandra Seltzer contributed to this story