Why this community on Northlake Boulevard is demanding a turn lane

Residents of a recently-annexed Palm Beach Gardens community want the county to build a turn lane into their subdivision, but are they willing to pay for it?

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Several homeowners from Osprey Isles, which Palm Beach Gardens annexed along with Carleton Oaks in 2017, asked officials to help them put pressure on the county to build a right-turn lane. They want the lane so that drivers — especially school bus drivers — can safely slow down to turn off the 55 mph Northlake Boulevard onto Osprey Isles Boulevard.

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The gated community consists of 101 homes, most of which are single-story, ranch-style houses, west of the Beeline Highway and east of Coconut Boulevard.

A school bus circle is 50 feet off Northlake Boulevard, and the bus nearly comes to a stop to make the turn, resident Bob Gilbert said.

“The cars behind the bus are doing, supposedly, 55. The cars behind it have to swerve. They do swerve,” Gilbert said. “I just don’t want to see a car or truck go into the back of a school bus trying to maneuver into Osprey Isles without having a deceleration lane.”

Resident Patricia Piloto said the community needs the lane, and not just for school buses. She said she wishes the drivers were going only 55 mph when she’s driving with her young daughter in the backseat.

“I’m always watching my rearview mirror. It’s just a matter of time before something happens tragically there,” Piloto said.

There are turn lanes into the Star of David Cemetery of the Palm Beaches, the city’s Sandhill Crane Golf Club and the construction site for Ancient Tree, a community of 97 single-family houses west of the golf club.

Osprey Isles Homeowners Association President Matthew Kamula told the Palm Beach Gardens City Council last week that the residents have contacted county officials, but they’re enlisting help from the city.

Palm Beach Gardens’ options are limited because the county controls the road. The city’s engineers will consider if there’s anything they can do to improve the situation, spokeswoman Candice Temple said.

County engineers explained that adding a turn lane into Osprey Isles is not a simple process. Osprey Isles would have to turn over control of the land for the road and pay for it, because only residents of the private development would benefit from the road, said Mo Al-Turk, the county’s traffic engineering operations manager.

A turn lane may be unwarranted, depending on the number of vehicles turning into Osprey Isles, Al-Turk said. That hasn’t been determined, but theremust be 75 vehicles turning in an hour to justify a designated turn lane.

Kamula said the county didn’t require the developer to put in a turn lane when the subdivision was built because there wasn’t enough traffic to justify it. But that was based on a study done around 2006, when many of the houses in the community were being built and many of the houses weren’t occupied.

Osprey Isles representatives went back to the county to ask for the turn lane when Avenir was approved, concerned about the additional traffic, Kamula said.

If Osprey Isles does agree to turn over the right-of-way free and clear, the turn lane could cost another $200,000 to $250,000 to build, said Omelio Fernandez, director of the county’s roadway production division.

Kamula said he couldn’t say if the community would be willing to give the right-of-way and pay for a turn lane without talking with residents and the rest of the homeowners association board.

Further complicating the possibility of a turn lane: the future widening of Northlake Boulevard for Avenir, a development of 2,900 homes and roughly 2 million square feet of office space west of Osprey Isles. The developers are responsible for widening the road to six lanes. Eventually, the county plans to widen it to eight.

The Avenir developers are doing the work in two phases, but within two years, they will be widening all of Northlake from their driveway to the State Road 7 extension, Al-Turk said.

Although there appears to be an area between the asphalt and sidewalk outside of Osprey Isles where the turn lane could go, that’s where the additional through-lane on Northlake will be when the road is widened to six lanes, Fernandez said.

The best way to build a turn lane would be to get the right-of-way to build it beyond the outside westbound lane when Northlake Boulevard expands, Fernandez said.

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