By Steve Plunkett
Turning Federal and Dixie highways into a pair of one-way roads downtown could shave two minutes off each southbound trip and almost four minutes off northbound travel, consultants say.
But such changes will not come quickly, consultants Jim Sumislaski and Chris Heggen told the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency last month. A typical timeline would show the project finishing in 2031, they said.
“I’d still love to find the magic rabbit out of a hat that gets us some answers quicker and faster,” CRA Chairman and City Council member Scott Singer said. “When I look at this timeline and I see construction going to 2031 it doesn’t make me feel as warm and fuzzy as something that says at least ’20-something on it.”
Sumislaski and Heggen, of Kimley-Horn and Associates, did a traffic count at peak morning and evening rush hours and midday in January, then forecast what traffic would be in the year 2040 at Federal/Dixie and Northeast Second Street, Palmetto Park Road, Camino Real and Southwest 18th Street.
At each intersection except Palmetto Park, the level of service improved and wait times were shorter if the north-south roads were converted to one-way.
At Palmetto Park Road, the changes would be “neutral to marginally improved,” Heggen said.
Changing the highways to a one-way pair would also allow for a more efficient use of the right of way, the consultants said. Federal and Dixie today are divided roadways with four 12-foot-wide travel lanes, turn lanes, 6-foot-wide sidewalks and 4-foot-wide undesignated shoulders for bicyclists. Making them one-way would mean three 11-foot-wide travel lanes, a 5-foot-wide bike path with a 2-foot-wide buffer, and 10 feet on both sides of each road for sidewalks, green space and “sidewalk furniture.”
The consultants estimated the construction cost at $48.8 million with money coming from the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, the state and the federal government.
CRA members liked one benefit in particular of going one-way: making the downtown more friendly to pedestrians who would walk on wider sidewalks and contend with only one direction of traffic.
But member Andrea O’Rourke asked why she did not see more people walking on Delray Beach’s one-way pair of avenues making up U.S. 1.
Heggen said Delray Beach’s downtown with its restaurants, shops and nightlife is oriented east-west along Atlantic Avenue. Boca Raton’s downtown is more north-south, he said.
CRA members told the consultants to formally request the MPO and the state to pay for a more in-depth study of downtown traffic.
Mayor Susan Haynie, who also chairs the MPO, predicted a favorable response.
“I’ll speak on behalf of the Palm Beach MPO that we will streamline it as quickly as we can,” Haynie said.