Several projects planned for Southern Boulevard in coming years could address traffic woes on one of the county’s primary east-west thoroughfares.
The work is being done as several large development projects ramp up in the western communities — including Arden, which covers more than 1,200 acres and, when finished, will have 2,000 homes.
Arden sits just west of Lion Country Safari on the north side of Southern Boulevard and is in the early stages of development, with sales expected to begin early next year, according to a spokesperson for Freehold Communities, the company building Arden.
Palm Beach County Engineer George Webb said the road projects are a “direct response” to Arden and other large commercial and residential areas being developed west of Florida’s Turnpike.
“We’re trying to stay somewhat in front of it,” he said, referring to an expected increase in traffic.
The Florida Department of Transportation is leading the projects, with input and some funding from the county.
One project would widen Southern from four lanes to six from the entrance to Arden to the intersection with Crestwood/Forest Hill Boulevard. The cost is estimated at $46.3 million, and construction is slated for 2018.
The intersection of Crestwood/Forest Hill and Southern also will see improvements, with the addition of a third westbound left turn lane, a continuous northbound to eastbound right turn lane, widening of the C-51 bridge and new bike lanes on both roads.
The price for the intersection work is estimated at $3.5 million, with construction starting in 2019.
Another project would add lanes — an eastbound right turn lane and a second westbound left turn lane — to Southern’s intersection with Sansbury’s Way, with construction in 2018 and an estimated cost of $4.4 million. It also would widen the Sansbury’s Way bridge over the C-51 canal.
Though construction on the projects won’t happen for another few years, the planning already is well underway.
FDOT this year has been acquiring right-of-way along Southern for the widening project. The next step is final design, which is scheduled to be completed by next fall, said Rita Bulsara, FDOT’s project manager for the widening project and the work at the intersection of Southern and Forest Hill.
Webb said the original plan was to add lanes to the road west only to the entrance of Lion Country Safari. He requested an extension to Arden, which FDOT incorporated into its plans — a move Webb called “a very good decision.”
Bulsara said that notification came early enough in the design process that FDOT could incorporate the additional two miles of road into the plans.
The Forest Hill and Southern intersection improvements anticipate a surge in vehicle traffic at that intersection in coming years, according to county documents. That project and the widening work will overlap, so, Bulsara said, the two projects will coordinate to make it a “seamless transition.”
Where the work being done west of Forest Hill on Southern aims to address expected vehicle volume in the future, the Sansbury’s Way intersection project aims to decrease delays already seen by daily commuters.
“For the last two or three years, that has been the bottleneck for the commuters in the west to try to get east,” Webb said.
Eastbound traffic backs up in the morning from the intersection nearly to the State Road 7 overpass, he said, and in the evening, westbound traffic can back up to the Florida’s Turnpike.
FDOT will “take advantage of the extra lane westbound to go southbound,” Webb said, while widening the C-51 bridge to accommodate those cars.
The state agency took comments from local officials and residents in December as part of a study looking at possible changes to the Southern Boulevard corridor. For more on that study, go to www.sr80actionplan.com.