New I-95 interchange in Gardens needs better planning, residents say

FDOT officials handed out this map of the proposed Central Boulevard I-95 interchange at a hearing in Palm Beach Gardens Wednesday night.

FDOT officials handed out this map of the proposed Central Boulevard I-95 interchange at a hearing in Palm Beach Gardens Wednesday night.

Palm Beach Gardens residents blasted FDOT officials Wednesday night for their proposal for a new I-95 interchange at Central Boulevard, which they said wouldn’t fix the overcrowding at PGA Boulevard.

Don Mathis said the new interchange would bring more cars to the residential area with five schools without providing the intended relief. If the interchange is built, the traffic between Hood Road and Central Boulevard will eventually be the same as PGA Boulevard west of Military Trail in the busiest morning hours, he said.

“You’re talking about massive congestion at school rush hour,” he told FDOT officials. “You’ve got to put this on hold. You’ve got to take a comprehensive look.”

Noting PGA Boulevard is built out, Project Manager Bing Wang said engineers had to identify where to put a new interchange. Hood Road was also considered, but their study found Central Boulevard is best, she said.

A dedicated lane from westbound PGA Boulevard onto southbound I-95 is also under consideration as part of a separate study of the Northlake Boulevard interchange, FDOT engineer Cesar Martinez said.

Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman Maria Marino asked if the study supporting the interchange at Central Boulevard took into account projects such the Florida Power & Light offices or the commercial components of the Alton development. FP&L has approval to build almost a million square feet of office space north of PGA Boulevard and west of Alternate A1A.

Jose Muñoz, a Florida Department of Transportation consultant, said some future development is accounted for and some is not. The study is based on what was approved at the time.

The Palm Beach Gardens City Council plans to discuss the proposed interchange at its next meeting 7 p.m. Oct. 6, Mayor Marcie Tinsley said. She urged FDOT to take a “comprehensive approach.”

“The traffic is exponentially different, and we want to make sure that is incorporated,” she said.

Construction of a $33.9 million interchange at Central Boulevard wouldn’t begin until at least 2023, according to FDOT. The department will have to spend an additional $7.9 million to acquire right of way, including 1.33 acres from the future site of an 80-acre North County District Park.

If the interchange is built, the through lanes will remain the same, but left-turn lanes in each direction to the on-ramp will be added, along with 7-foot bike lanes and 10-foot sidewalks on each side of the road.

Resident Betsy Strasser said she doesn’t care how wide the sidewalks are. Many children walk to school, and they’re still going to have to cross the street somewhere, she said.

Strasser also disputed a claim in the presentation that the interchange isn’t likely to adversely affect wood storks in the area. The wading birds, which are federally-designated as threatened, congregate there, she said.

The new interchange will cause more problems than it solves, she said.

“Progress is fine, but it needs some planning,” Strasser said.

 

 

 

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