The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Accidents, traffic already concern neighbors of East Atlantic project

SOURCE: Delray Beach Police.

Map by Bonnie Lallky-Seibert/The Coastal Star

By Jane Smith

    During the past three years, traffic accidents along a stretch of East Atlantic Avenue have increased, according to a Coastal Star analysis of city and county traffic records. 

    Along the road between Federal Highway and A1A, accidents bottomed out at 29 in 2011, during the economic downturn, and rose to 49 in 2013, when tourism rebounded. 

    Most of the wrecks were rear-end collisions resulting in minor damage, but a few of the 2013 East Atlantic Avenue accidents resulted in injuries. 

    One hit-run crash in early October at Gleason Street sent two tourists who were crossing the avenue with their children in a stroller to the hospital. The husband’s leg was broken, the wife received cuts and bruises, but the toddlers escaped injury. 

    The 24-year-old driver was traveling 50 mph in a 35 mph zone, and allegedly ran a red light, hitting the tourists, according to the crash report. 

    The driver was found about a mile from the scene, where she blew .263 percent and .265 percent on breath tests, more than three times the limit at which a Florida driver is considered too impaired to drive. 

    At press time, no trial date was set for her felony DUI case, according to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.

    In another wreck last September, a speeding Toyota Tacoma pickup spun out after leaving the wet drawbridge.

    The pickup jumped the curb and struck a 37-year-old male, who was taken to the hospital with injuries. The pedestrian survived, and the 26-year-old driver was cited for careless driving.  

    Another October wreck was caused by an 88-year-old woman who was cited for careless driving after a four-car pileup waiting for the drawbridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to lower. She was stopped behind three cars in her new Mercedes SL550 when she mistakenly put her foot on the gas instead of the brake, causing the chain reaction. 

    That wreck occurred near the site of the recently approved $200 million Atlantic Crossing complex, a mixed-use development of 82 luxury condos and 262 apartments, 83,000-square-feet of Class A office space and 76,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Study anticipates increased traffic

    While the intersection of West Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail and West Atlantic and Congress avenues record the city’s top accident numbers, East Atlantic Avenue will see considerably more traffic when Atlantic Crossing comes on line, a study shows. 

    By 2017, when the nine-acre, mixed-use project opens at Federal Highway and East Atlantic Avenue, rush hour traffic will slow to a crawl, according to a study commissioned by the Florida Coalition for Preservation. 

    The coalition sought the study because Atlantic Crossing’s developer was required only to study traffic patterns within the project, not surrounding neighborhoods. That was because the city had designated the project site exempt from surrounding traffic studies many years ago in an effort to encourage redevelopment in rundown parts of the downtown.  

    “That project sits at Main and Main in Delray Beach,” said Robert Ganger, president of the coalition. And if the traffic congestion becomes too severe, he said, it could make Atlantic Crossing an undesirable destination, “which would hurt Delray Beach’s image.”

    Andrew Katz, vice president of the Beach Property Owners’ Association and who lives on South Ocean Boulevard, was more measured in his response.  

    But during the season, he avoids East Atlantic Avenue by driving south to Linton Boulevard to reach other parts of the city. 

    “It already has significant issues in the season, with the bridge openings twice an hour for seven, eight minutes each time. That means there are significant parts of each hour that traffic is not moving on Atlantic Avenue,” said Katz. 

    The BPOA helped pay for the traffic study along with private donations and money from a local garden club. 

    Delray Beach is in the process of hiring a traffic engineering consultant to study traffic on East Atlantic Avenue, said Randal Krejcarek, city environmental services director. The last study was done in 2009, he said. 

    When the project received approval in January, it did not include two access roads promised in exchange for the city abandoning a section of Northeast Seventh Avenue, charges a lawsuit filed in late February by the neighboring Harbour House homeowners association. It wants the court to force the city to require the developer to build the access roads to handle the 11,000 cars expected daily and not let the project’s traffic clog neighborhood streets. At press time, a hearing date was not set.

    Atlantic Crossing’s development team sees the issue differently. 

    “As far as the claim that we have reneged on an agreement to provide an internal east-west street, this is patently false,” said Don DeVere, vice president of the Edwards Companies, a partner in the project. 

    “This street was part of a prior plan approved by the city in 2009. In 2011, we put forward a new plan with many improvements, which never included this street. This new plan has gone through all appropriate review and approval processes, and has been approved by the city as the new site plan for Atlantic Crossing. We feel fully confident that the city will prevail on the merits of this case.”

    Ganger said the Coalition will continue to monitor the situation. 

    “As a barrier island public service entity, we are still involved because it is a quality of life issue,” Ganger said.

 

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