By Steve Plunkett
Boca Raton will add left-turn lanes on eastbound Palmetto Park Road at Mizner Boulevard and Northeast/Southeast Fifth Avenue and buy a train detection system so it can better time traffic signals at the Palmetto Park crossing.
The turn lanes, which were taken out six years ago, should be operational by November, City Manager Leif Ahnell said.
“Something we talked about back in 2010 when we put the islands in to slow down traffic, we’re here now to tell you that that was effective,” consultant Jim Sumislaski of Kimley, Horn and Associates told the City Council at its June 13 workshop. Indeed, the islands were too effective, he said, and contribute to current traffic congestion.
The relatively quick improvements were among a slew of recommendations from Sumislaski and a second consultant, Diana Rivas of Calvin, Giordano and Associates, to reduce traffic congestion.
Mayor Susan Haynie said the discussion on longer-term projects was just a jumping-off point.
“We’ll have lots of conversations about these improvements,” she said.
Sumislaski, who lives in Boca Raton, said the bridge on Palmetto Park Road opens on the half-hour and causes an eight-minute delay each time. It takes two cycles at the Fifth Avenue signal to clear traffic, he said.
It should take 6.5 minutes to drive the 3.1 miles from Interstate 95 to A1A for a vehicle going 30 mph and encountering no red lights, no train holdups and no bridge opening, Sumislaski said.
He theorized that with seven traffic signals on the route, 11 minutes would be a good time, and then had his staff test his theory.
In 20 trips from noon to 5 p.m. May 25, the average time was 13.2 minutes, he said. Only one trip was held up by a train and only one by the bridge, he said. He recommended earlier detection of trains and changing signals to clear east-west traffic.
Council member Scott Singer was enthusiastic when he heard such a system has a minimal cost.
“I’m ready to make a motion now to amend our budget to approve $100,000. I mean that,” Singer said.
But Ahnell said he could order the equipment without changing the budget or having an official motion.
Sumislaski also recommended changing the signal’s cycle at Palmetto Park Road and A1A.
“I’ve been stopped waiting to make a left-hand turn to go northbound on A1A waiting for the cars to come around that circle [in South Beach Park]. Sometimes I get stymied and there’s a long line of cars,” he said.
He also said Boca Raton should hire a full-time traffic monitoring operator, study making Federal Highway and Dixie Highway a pair of one-way roads and look at widening Palmetto Park Road to six lanes from I-95 to Dixie.
“We’ve looked at that over the years. The time might be right for that,” Haynie said.
Longer term, Sumislaski said the city could make a traffic bypass route on Second Street through the City Hall campus.
Rivas was following up from a Calvin, Giordano presentation in March that offered four options for the intersection at Palmetto Park Road and Fifth Avenue.
“From that meeting, we came [up] with a combination of [two] alternatives turned into one hybrid [alternative],” she said.
The solution calls for left-turn lanes on Palmetto Park east- and westbound, the addition of buffered bike lanes on Fifth Avenue, and right-of-way acquisition and sidewalk connectivity on the northeast corner. Adding the turn lanes might cost $200,000, Rivas said. Buying the land on the corner might be $1 million to $2 million, she said.
Rivas also recommended the city extend the bike lanes along Northeast Fifth Avenue all the way to U.S. 1 and enforce the existing valet agreement at the Trattoria Romano restaurant.
By Steve Plunkett