By Rich Pollack

For years, motorists traveling north on State Road A1A though Highland Beach have complained about the backups at Linton Boulevard caused by too many cars turning west in too short of a turn lane, especially during season.
Now there may be a glimmer of hope for a fix — but it won’t be for a while and will come as part of an $8.8 million resurfacing project that is certain to disrupt traffic for a year and a half beginning in spring 2024.
During a late August public meeting, Florida Department of Transportation representatives provided an overview of the work, which will affect all of Highland Beach and parts of Delray Beach.
The project will include a 5-foot bike lane on each side of the road as well as improvement to drainage in the swales, designed to keep water from ponding on the highway.
“It’s going to be disruptive, but in the long term it appears some long-standing issues will be addressed,” said Town Manager Marshall Labadie. “It’s promising.”
Following a brief presentation, project manager Brad Salisbury and the team took questions from residents, with many expressing concern about the headaches that will come from periodic lane closures and others concerned about the impact the project will have on trees and shrubs in the right-of-way.
Several residents also expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the drainage project, worried in part about pollutants making their way into the Intracoastal Waterway.
It was the disruption, mostly to traffic, that drew many of the questions from people who will have to navigate lane closures as they come and go from their homes.
“I’m just concerned about what life will be like for that year and a half,” said Toscana South resident Fred Levy. “It will be a disaster.”
Salisbury acknowledged that concern and said that message boards at each end of the project will warn of delays and encourage motorists to seek alternate routes.
The engineers also said that major pavement work likely would be done at night when there is less traffic.
Residents were told that the work would be done in sections and that, said Highland Beach Commissioner Evalyn David, would give them an opportunity to minimize disruptions.
“This is something we need to do and it’s going to come with interruptions that will require people to make adjustments,” she said. “If you don’t want to deal with delays, plan around them.”
David said the FDOT is planning a follow-up meeting early next year, and she is urging residents to learn as much as they can about the project.
“People will have options in deciding how they’re going to deal with the disruptions,” she said.
The traffic headaches at Linton and A1A were raised by Michael Owen, who lives just north of the Highland Beach town limits and urged the engineers to address the long backups in the northbound lane during season.
“The intersection of Linton Boulevard will be ridiculous,” the Delray Beach resident said. “We need that fixed more than we need other improvements.”
Salisbury said the project design calls for the extension of the left-turn lane, which should help reduce congestion.
Another major concern of residents was the future of landscaping in the FDOT right-of-way when the road is widened to include bike lanes.
Landscape architect Aaron Wilbur, who is part of the team working on the project, said that the state will try to move as many trees as possible but not shrubs, because they don’t move well.
“The whole strategy is preservation as much as possible,” he said, adding that the team would restore irrigation systems in the swale areas.
Like the concerns about the Linton Boulevard intersection, standing water on A1A has long been an issue for Highland Beach residents. To address that, the FDOT will look at putting drainage systems in swale areas that will filter water as it permeates the soil.
Although Salisbury and his team answered many of the questions, the engineer said some of them have not yet been fully addressed in the plans. He said the department is looking into scheduling another meeting where more questions will be answered.
FDOT is also planning a construction open house prior to the start of construction.

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