12686700071?profile=RESIZE_710xA pedestrian navigates signs and construction debris during the revamping of Boynton Beach Boulevard in June. The project is not due to end until late 2025. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Sallie James

A $7.2 million construction project to widen sidewalks, create shared bicycle lanes and repave eastern Boynton Beach Boulevard has residents and business owners fuming about the project’s scope and questionable necessity in an area with little pedestrian traffic.

Since construction started in May, traffic along Boynton Beach Boulevard east of Interstate 95 has been snarled with lane closures. Motorists must navigate a slalom course of heavy equipment, traffic cones and road barricades along the road’s stretch from Northwest Third Street to just east of Federal Highway. 

And the end is nowhere in sight. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, which is administering the multi-tiered project, completion isn’t expected until sometime near the end of 2025.

Businesses owners say they are frustrated already.

12686702053?profile=RESIZE_180x180At the historic Ace Hardware near the southwest corner of Boynton Beach Boulevard and Federal Highway, business is down about 25%. Employees say it is because the parking lot is so difficult to access amid the chaos of construction.

“It causes a lot of pain,” acknowledged Ace Hardware owner Valerie Pleasanton, whose family-owned store has been at the same location since 1972. “It has killed the traffic here. Our customer base is saying what a pain it is to navigate.”

The improvements are part of the city’s Boynton Beach Boulevard Streetscape Improvement Project, envisioned by the city and the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency in 2018 as creating a gateway into downtown. The local contribution for the project is $3.1 million. The approximately $4.1 million remaining includes a $2.2 million grant from the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency supplemented by other federal money.

The project includes:
• Milling and resurfacing Boynton Beach Boulevard;
• Expanding existing sidewalks along Boynton Beach Boulevard to nine feet on the north and 15 feet on the south;
• Modifying area drainage;
• Retrofitting pedestrian lighting at signalized intersections;
• Adding a new pedestrian crossing on the boulevard at Northwest Third Street;
• Installing shared lane bicycle markings on both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Boynton Beach Boulevard and West Ocean Avenue;
• Upgrading pedestrian signals, pavement markings and signs.

The overall cost has more than doubled since the project was conceived due to actual and anticipated increases in construction costs, according to a City Commission agenda item from December 2023.

The project’s aim is to make Boynton Beach Boulevard east of I-95 more pedestrian-friendly while adding value to downtown.

“The beautification of the Boynton Beach Boulevard corridor from US1 to NW 3rd Street is a necessity to physically transform the entrance to the city’s commercial core to a more livable downtown,” Assistant CRA Director Timothy Tack wrote in an email.

The improvements “support the community’s vision for a more complete street at the most significant commercial corridor and the city’s namesake,” he added.

The roadwork is coming as the city prepares for three major developments to the south of Boynton Beach Boulevard in the area:

• Ocean One, a 371-unit mixed-use development planned for the east side of Federal Highway;
• The Pierce, a $73 million Community Redevelopment Agency-backed complex of apartments, restaurants, retail stores and green space on the west side of Federal Highway, including the relocation of Hurricane Alley Raw Bar and Restaurant from Ocean Avenue to an expanded space on Boynton Beach Boulevard;
• Town Square, expected to be the city’s largest development, which has been approved along the east side of Seacrest Boulevard. The project is to include 898 luxury apartments, 23,000 square feet of commercial space, a hotel and two parking garages. An earlier phase of the project included the now completed City Hall, library and amphitheater, along with the renovation of the 1927 Boynton Beach High School into the Boynton Beach Arts and Cultural Center. 

Angela Cruz, a Boynton Beach commissioner, a CRA board member and a member of the county TPA board, said the current construction mess will be worth it. 

“It’s going to get better. It’s going to be more walkable. It’s going to be a destination,” Cruz said. “It’s an important project because we are trying to create alternative modes of transportation where people can walk more and use their bikes.”

The streetscape project is a sore spot for city activist Susan Oyer, who nicknamed it “the Boynton Beach disaster.” 

“It was budgeted for $3 million and it’s now $7 million. You need to put a stop to this,” Oyer told city commissioners during a June 18 commission meeting. “Where are you getting the $4 million for a road renovation that we absolutely do not want, do not need, and is injuring our city?”

At the Meineke Car Care Center at 319 E. Boynton Beach Blvd., owner Enrique Concha estimated his business has plummeted by 40% since construction started in May. He hopes the improvements are worth it.

“Everyone wants to avoid it. I’m OK with them fixing things, but I believe they could do it faster,” he said.

“It’s been very inconvenient for our customers to make their way over,” said his son, Daniel Concha, a manager, as he gazed at a line of road barriers and cones. “I also don’t like the way some of the businesses have personalized entrances from Boynton Beach Boulevard. Customers are asking what the hell is going on.”

Pleasanton from Ace Hardware wonders about the logic behind the project and worries that construction was ill-timed with the start of hurricane season.

“We don’t have the entertainment or the draw to support 15-foot sidewalks, and they are narrowing the lanes to widen the sidewalks,” Pleasanton said, shaking her head. “And during hurricane season, if we have a really bad hurricane, this is the main evacuation route.”

Some drivers may choose Woolbright Road as an alternate route to avoid the mess, but Woolbright will be experiencing its own traffic problems next year. Plans are in the works for a major construction project at Woolbright and Seacrest Boulevard. It will add a right-hand turn lane for eastbound Woolbright Road traffic turning onto southbound Seacrest.

The existing travel lanes will have to be moved northward to accommodate the extra lane.

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Comments

  • Notice that the project scope of work DOES NOT include trees and landscaping. Those big wide sidewallks wil be empty without shade. 

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