Transportation engineers are adamant that noise coming off of a Beeline Highway expansion won’t justify a sound wall, but city officials and residents are doubling down for a fight.
The Florida Department of Transportation plans to add two travel lanes to create a 6-lane road with bike lanes, sidewalks and new lighting.
The posted speed limit would be lowered from 55 to 45 mph because the department requires a lower speed limit when there are curbs, Project Manager Donovan Pessoa said. The speed limit will be lowered because when a car or truck hits a curb going 55 mph, there’s a good chance it will go airborne, Pessoa said.
Steeplechase residents say that reasoning indicates their appeals for a protective wall are justified.
“There are so many more issues than just sound,” said David Moore, Steeplechase Property Owners Association president. “The road bed is above the top of the existing wall, and if someone goes off the road, there’s nothing to stop them from going into someone’s living room.”
Residents of the Preston neighborhood in PGA National joined Steeplechase owners in their entreaties for a wall.
“I appreciate the position the council is taking on behalf of Steeplechase, but what about us? Please include us in your objections,” PGA National resident Mark Miller said.
The Steeplechase and PGA National residents have the backing of the City Council, Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche and State Rep. Rick Roth. Vice Mayor Carl Woods said the council will need to “be told no at every single level all the way up to the governor’s office.”
To justify a sound wall, the projected noise must be 66 decibels or greater, two impacted properties must get a reduction of at least 5 decibels, one impacted property must get a reduction of at least 7 decibels and the noise barrier must not cost more than $42,000 per beneficiary.
The noise in a busy restaurant would be roughly equivalent to 66 decibels, according to FDOT.
In Steeplechase, only a tennis court qualified as an impacted property, with 67 decibels. PGA National had two impacted properties that measured a little over 66 decibels, FDOT consultant Bernard Kinney said. By the department’s standards, it’s not feasible to build a sound wall for any of those properties.
Field measurements at Steeplechase and PGA National were only used to test the accuracy of a computer model based on the road design in 2042, Kinney said.
City Council members and residents raised other concerns about pollution, loss of privacy, easier access leading to more crime and lower property values. One resident questioned the effect on the sandhill cranes that live in Steeplechase. The tall birds are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and designated as threatened by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
FDOT expects to complete the plans by March 2020 and to award a construction contract by July 2021. The work will take about three years to complete.