DELRAY BEACH — The Florida Department of Transportation is set to soon add a no-turn, right “turbo lane” at the Interstate 95 northbound on-ramp at Atlantic Avenue.
But residents and city officials worry that the added lane, as well as new lanes planned at the Congress Avenue-Atlantic Avenue intersection, will be troublesome for high school students who traverse the busy intersections to walk to school.
“(Residents) asked numerous times to make some changes to make it easier to walk,” Commissioner Bill Bathurst said. “Most of the things they asked for weren’t done.”
The state’s transportation department has been planning the added “turbo lane,” a right-turn lane onto the interstate that doesn’t require a stop, since 2014, said project manager Thuc Le. The project is scheduled to begin in late August.
It may be too late to make changes, Le told city commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.
The Atlantic Avenue interchange is set up so drivers westbound on Atlantic Avenue must turn right to head toward both southbound and northbound on-ramps. The lane farthest to the right heads northbound and the adjacent lane heads southbound.
The new project will add:
- A right “turbo lane,” expected to ease congestion on Atlantic Avenue.
- A small concrete wall between right lanes headed for the northbound and southbound off-ramps, so drivers won’t be able to cut through traffic and jump into the right lane.
- A shared bike lane along Atlantic Avenue between Congress Avenue and Northwest 12th Avenue (just east of the interstate).
- A second southbound Congress Avenue right-turn lane onto Atlantic Avenue.
- And a second northbound Congress Avenue right-turn lane onto Atlantic Avenue.
Some students at Atlantic High School, less than a mile from the I-95/Atlantic Avenue interchange, walk to and from school to homes just west of the highway. There will be sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and added signage, Le said.
Still, many have fought the project, calling it unfriendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“We have an intersection here which is probably the most dangerous ... and we’re going to make it more so with this,” said Jim Chard, a former city commissioner and member of pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy group Human Powered Delray.
The group has reached out to FDOT about changes since 2014, but none of their suggestions made it into the final plans, Chard said.
Bathurst said Tuesday he plans to reach out to FDOT about adjusting the project, which Le said is meant to alleviate traffic woes on the heavily-traveled east-to-west thoroughfare.
“Capacity is for cars, not for people,” Bathurst said. “You’re reporting to us what you’re doing. We want to make sure that’s right for us.”
If the project begins in August as planned, construction is expected to last about a year.
Follow Delray Beach reporter Lulu Ramadan on Twitter at @luluramadan.