By Jane Smith
To meet growing traffic demands, the state will do a $5.2 million construction project at the Atlantic Avenue Interstate 95 interchange in Delray Beach.
The project will begin in September and is expected to last slightly longer than one year, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
The improvements will take place mainly along a 1-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue from the E-4 Canal, just west of Congress Avenue, to Northwest/Southwest 10th Avenue. FDOT owns Atlantic Avenue in this area.
FDOT predicts the average annual daily traffic to increase from 47,000 vehicles in 2016 to 59,800 in 2040, growing at an annual rate of 1.39 percent. The department will showcase its redesign to the public between 4 and 6 p.m. Aug. 30 at the city’s Environmental Services building, 434 S. Swinton Ave.
While the state talks about traffic capacity and safety of drivers, Delray Beach city commissioners are focused on a multimodal transportation plan that includes walkers and bicyclists.
FDOT representatives said they first met with Delray Beach residents in July 2014. They also heard from Human Powered Delray, a nonprofit group dedicated to bike and pedestrian safety.
The department listened to the group’s suggestions, but FDOT did not incorporate most of them into the redesign because of cost constraints and lack of space, said Guillermo Canedo, FDOT spokesman.
Bill Bathurst, a new commissioner who was designated as the FDOT point person at the July 10 commission meeting, said, “We are getting a little bit more of what we wanted. I’m still concerned that it’s dangerous for walkers and bike riders who live east of the interstate and walk west on Atlantic.”
When his son was in high school and wrestled on the Atlantic High School team, Bathurst picked up his son and teammates daily after practice to drive them home, east of I-95. The high school sits on Atlantic Avenue, west of Congress.
The Palm Beach County School District usually does not provide bus service to students living within 2 miles of the school. But for Atlantic High students who live east of I-95, the district makes an exception and provides bus transportation, according to Shane Searchwell, general manager of transportation services. Bathurst is trying to set up a meeting with FDOT representatives and various community leaders before the construction work starts.
FDOT will upgrade the Interstate 95 on-ramp lanes to be “segregated, exclusive safety lanes” from westbound Atlantic, Canedo said. The lanes, also called turbo lanes, will be separated from the other travel lanes by a 4-inch raised concrete barrier that has 5-foot plastic batons on top, he said, to prevent vehicles from crossing over at the last minute.
“The angle of the southbound on-ramp will be changed to improve pedestrian safety,” Canedo said.
East of the interstate on the north side of Atlantic, walkers will have a 6-foot-wide sidewalk and bike riders will get a dedicated 7-foot lane. West of the interstate, bike riders will share the lane with vehicles from the southbound I-95 off-ramp west to Congress Avenue.
Pedestrians and bike riders must cross over the turbo lanes twice when traveling westbound on Atlantic. Eastbound walkers and cyclists also must cross over the regular traffic getting onto the southbound on-ramp and on the other side of the interstate, traffic lanes for vehicles exiting the northbound interstate.