By Jane Smith
Some barrier island residents said they’ve been waiting 15 years to see sidewalks along George Bush Boulevard in Delray Beach.
Their wait is scheduled to end in spring 2021.
That’s when the Florida Department of Transportation will use $3.7 million in federal gas tax funds to make a 1.2-mile section into a complete street — sidewalks, bike lanes, travel lanes and pedestrian lighting. The work will be done between Northeast Second Avenue and State Road A1A.
“The new sidewalk and curb will prevent people from driving over our lawn,” said Cheryl Dern, who lives in a townhouse at the southwest intersection of A1A and George Bush.
No matter what traffic barrier that she, her husband, George, and their fellow Cambria Crest homeowner/residents put in the ground, people still drive over part of the lawn when turning right from George Bush Boulevard to go south on A1A.
FDOT unveiled the plans at a May 15 workshop at the Delray Beach Public Library.
Most attendees seemed to favor the road redo, which is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2022.
“The George Bush bike lanes will connect those on Northeast Second, Northeast Fifth and Northeast Sixth avenues, giving bike riders a northern route to the beach,” said Jason Bregman, who heads the master plan committee for the nonprofit Human Powered Delray.
The George Bush bike route has been in the planning stages since 2014, Bregman said.
Bike riders will have their own lanes until Andrews Avenue just east of the Intracoastal Waterway. East of that road, George Bush Boulevard is too narrow. Bike riders will have to share the road with vehicles in that approximately one-eighth of a mile stretch to the beach.
The project calls for reducing the width of the automobile travel lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet, giving bike riders at least 2 feet and as much as 7 feet in their designated lanes. It also calls for widening sidewalks on the south side and building new sidewalks on the north side of the roadway, installing pedestrian lighting to make sidewalks safer, and milling and resurfacing the road.
Cyclists will still have to walk their bikes on the bridge sidewalks over the Intracoastal Waterway. The FDOT project does not cover bridge improvements.
Deputy Vice Mayor Bill Bathurst, the City Commission’s designated FDOT liaison, said he would like to walk the route with a project engineer to help him understand it.
Bob Victorin, president of the Beach Property Owners Association, said it was his first time seeing the plans. He needed more time to discuss them with his board.
But resident Kathy Fazio did not like what she saw. “It’s a safety issue,” she said, “with bikes, pedestrians and cars in a narrow space.”
Fazio, who lives on Harbor Drive on the barrier island south of George Bush, planned to discuss the plans with neighbors to come up with their own ideas for how to use that $3.7 million on the boulevard.
“That’s a lot of money,” she said.
But if their plan doesn’t include bike riders, the city likely would lose the grant money and would have to pay for the roadwork itself, said Albert Richwagen.
His family has owned Richwagen’s Delray Bike & Sport for 57 years in Delray Beach. He is also a board member of Human Powered Delray.