- Kristina Webb Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Residents will get a first up-close look next week at what may be in store for the future of Southern Boulevard.
The Florida Department of Transportation will hold two workshops to discuss the results of its State Road 80 Corridor Action Plan, a review of the county’s main east-west thoroughfare stretching from South Bay to West Palm Beach.
The workshops — from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Belle Glade Civic Center, and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Wellington Community Center — are informal, with people invited to “stop by and talk to us at anytime,” according to a flyer for the events.
The workshops will show the culmination of two years of work by FDOT engineers and consultants, who looked at how Southern Boulevard will handle an expected population boom in the western communities over the next two decades.
The preliminary findings of the study first were presented to local officials at the September meeting of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, formerly the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization.
While some members of the TPA board previously had called for light rail to be considered as an option, the Southern Boulevard corridor is “not right for transit investment,” consultant Jessica Josselyn of Kittelson & Associates told the TPA board.
Rather, the state’s focus has turned to moving as many cars along the corridor as quickly as possible — a prospect that in one option could include a four-lane, elevated, express-style highway hovering over a frontage road system from Royal Palm Beach Boulevard to Congress Avenue.
The study examined Southern Boulevard in five segments: U.S. Highway 27 to Hooker Highway, Hooker Highway to 20 Mile Bend, 20 Mile Bend to Binks Forest Drive, Binks Forest Drive to Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, and Royal Palm Beach Boulevard to Congress.
Florida has spent nearly $350 million on Southern Boulevard since 2003, Josselyn told the TPA board, with another $117 million in projects planned — all of which has been done in anticipation of the continuing westward expansion of development in Palm Beach County.
Several alternatives will be discussed at the workshops, with large renderings and plans on display and consultants and engineers available to talk about the results of the action plan. After the public workshops, FDOT will report back to the TPA, then complete the study early next year. Construction wouldn’t take place for another several years, with design work and environmental studies still required.