By Rich Pollack

After receiving a flurry of emails regarding the impact that a planned $8.8 million resurfacing project on State Road A1A would have on Highland Beach, Stacey Cohen went to a meeting hosted by state transportation officials with a pocket full of concerns.
How much of an inconvenience to residents who must drive A1A to get to and from the town would come with the project, she wanted to know. She also was concerned about the impact that wider bicycle lanes would have on the safety of motorists.
By the time she finished talking to traffic engineers and roadway designers, she was a little more accepting of the project, a little less worried and a lot more informed.
“Everyone I asked a question to had a really strong answer,” Cohen said.
Not everyone who attended the March 13 meeting had a chance to spend 10 to 15 minutes in the town library’s conference room with Florida Department of Transportation officials like Cohen did.
Many who showed up for the meeting at its start time of 6 p.m. found it difficult to make their way through a large crowd to the tables spread out highlighting the plans for the road project.
Those in the room a half hour to 45 minutes later found FDOT representatives eager to answer questions.
What Cohen discovered in talking to engineers was that the state undertakes resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation projects on state roads every 20 years.
“It’s going to happen whether we want it or not,” she said.
Project engineer Brad Salisbury says the 3-mile-long project, which is scheduled to begin in May 2024, will stretch from the Highland Beach border with Boca Raton up to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach.
He said that the project is about improving the road for the future while addressing current issues.
“We’re not going to be doing this again in five years,” he said.
In addition to resurfacing the road, contractors will be addressing drainage issues that have been a source of constant complaints by residents for more than a decade.
To enhance drainage, contractors will improve swales by putting infiltration rock under the grass that will make it easier for water to percolate down and off the road.
That work, along with widening lanes for bicycle travel, will mean the removal of some shrubs and trees, with FDOT officials saying they plan to relocate as many trees as possible.
One concern that resident Louis Trivento expressed was the future of the sidewalk on the west side of A1A. He learned the sidewalk — known in Highland Beach as the walking path — would be left relatively unscathed with part of it raised during the drainage work.
“We got our answers quickly,” he said.
Another concern residents expressed was about including 5-foot bicycle lanes on both the east and west sides of A1A.
Salisbury said that although the lanes are labeled as bike paths, they are actually marked shoulders, which are differentiated from bike lanes, which include a curb. He said that bike lanes are mandated unless that is contrary to public safety.
During the meeting, engineers and traffic planners showed residents many places along the road where a 4-foot shoulder currently exists and explained that in those cases, just 1 foot will be added.
Some residents expressed concern that wider bike lanes would lead to more bicyclists, including more riding in the lanes of traffic.
That’s probably not the case, says Bruce Rosenzweig, a former president of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club, who attended the meeting and believes the wider shoulder will do just the opposite.
“This will make the road safer,” he said. “There will be more people riding in the bike lane rather than in the road.”
Rosenzweig said that current road conditions are inconsistent, with shoulders narrowing down so much in some areas that bicyclists are forced to go into the road.
“Cyclists in general are more likely to stay in the bicycle lane,” he said.
Salisbury said that he and the rest of the team want to hear from residents and will review comment cards that were passed out during the meeting.
He said another town hall-style meeting will take place just before construction begins at which the contractor will be present.

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