- Bill DiPaolo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A year-long construction project to make a safer U.S. 1 in the village starts Monday, and whether or not the $3 million plan is worthwhile depends on who you ask.
“It’s going to hurt my business. A year is a long time,” said Ken Rosenthal, who for seven years has operated Rinaldi’s Deli of Tequesta, located on the east side of the 1-mile stretch of U.S. 1 where the work is planned.
The construction is part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s “Complete Streets Program” to redesign roadways to become safer and encourage walking, bicycling and other driving alternatives, said Kim Delaney, director of strategic development and policy with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.
“This project is all about improving safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicycle riders,” said Delaney.
That’s why Jenna Pignato, co-owner of Kid’s Gym on the stretch of U.S. 1., likes the project planned from the Martin County line south to Beach Road.
More younger families are moving to Tequesta, said Pignato. Creating a U.S. 1 to attract pedestrians, bicyclists and more shoppers will help the community and businesses like hers, she said.
“Tequesta is a small, sweet town. The road will be easier and safer for families to get around,” said Pignato, who opened her gym for children a year ago to meet the demand from younger families in the 5,800-population village at the northeast corner of Palm Beach County.
The plan calls for eliminating the two U.S. 1 outside lanes — one north and one south — and replacing them with bicycle lanes and wider turn lanes. New sidewalks, lighting, marked crosswalks, landscaping and drainage are planned.
Two lanes of traffic in each direction will remain open during construction. Nighttime lane closures will be required for repaving. Sidewalk sections occasionally will be closed. Detour routes for pedestrian routes will be marked, according to FDOT.
Businesses along that section of U.S. 1 will remain open. Access to businesses and driveways will be maintained throughout construction, according to FDOT.
About 24,000 vehicles daily travel down the 2-mile section. That’s much lower than the maximum of 32,000 for a four-lane roadway. The maximum for a six-lane roadway is about 48,000, according to state transportation figures.
North county traffic woes won’t be over after the U.S. 1 project is complete.
Plans call for replacing the U.S. 1 bridge over the Loxahatchee River between Tequesta and Jupiter in 2021. Construction of the higher, wider bridge, expected to cost about $120 million, is likely to take about three years.
Businesses and residents will be inconvenienced during the U.S. 1 Tequesta construction, said Pignato. But the end result will be worth the trouble, said Pignato.
“Anything good in life takes time,” she said.
Completion by J.W. Cheatham, LLC is scheduled for the fall of next year.