By Steve Plunkett
The intersection of East Palmetto Park Road and Fifth Avenue may get one, two or three changes to improve traffic flow.
Eric Czerniejewski, a project manager for consultant Calvin, Giordano and Associates, suggests restoring a left-turn lane for eastbound vehicles on Palmetto Park, taking property on the northeast corner through eminent domain, and adding a left-turn lane for northbound Fifth Avenue drivers who want to go west.
If the city were to choose all three possibilities, Czerniejewski said at a public hearing March 23, average wait times at the sometimes-clogged intersection would drop by a cumulative 37.5 seconds.
The consultant based his analysis on traffic figures the city collected in September and also got peak-season numbers through observations on March 11.
“We also had aerial drones flown,” he said.
Czerniejewski analyzed the traffic flow based on current demands as well as anticipated demands from projects that have been approved but not built, including Palmetto Promenade (Archstone), Boca Lofts, Chabad of East Boca, Hyatt Place Hotel, Tower One Fifty Five and a restaurant at the Wildflower site. He also added projections for 1.2 million square feet of space remaining in the downtown Development of Regional Impact area.
By 2040, he said, drivers at the Palmetto Park/Fifth Avenue intersection will wait an average of 57.7 seconds. Not building a restaurant at the Wildflower site would cut the wait only one-tenth of a second, he said.
By comparison, the current average wait at Palmetto Park Road and A1A is 19.4 seconds; at Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway it’s 131.2 seconds.
Residents at a hearing in November gave their highest priorities to having wider sidewalks and more, safer bicycle lanes at Palmetto Park and Fifth, examining the valet operation at the Trattoria Romano restaurant on the northwest corner, and taking some land on the northeast corner by eminent domain to make right turns from westbound Palmetto easier.
Czerniejewski recommended that Boca Raton enforce the valet parking agreement it has with Trattoria Romano. He said he observed the valet parkers putting cones on the public sidewalk on the west side of Northeast Fifth and also saw “conflicts” at its southernmost driveway.
Restoring the left-turn lane from eastbound Palmetto to northbound Fifth Avenue saved the most money — $3.8 million a year — as calculated by drivers’ time spent waiting, Czerniejewski said. The option would also cut the queue of vehicles at the intersection from almost 21 to nine for through traffic and 11 for those turning left.
An option many neighborhood residents favored, adding a right-turn lane from southbound Fifth Avenue onto westbound Palmetto Park, would save only $89,435 in drivers’ time spent waiting, he said.
Czerniejewski plans to bring a final report to the City Council sometime in May.