By Anne Geggis

The going will be slower along East Ocean Avenue from Federal Highway to State Road A1A starting at the end of the year as the state plans a road resurfacing and other work there.

But the 1½-year-long project, anticipated to start in December, is not the answer to the long-term flooding issues that are creeping up around the bridge, transportation officials said.

At an information session Jan. 31, Florida Department of Transportation officials took questions about a planned redo of a half-mile stretch of the avenue that is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2026.

“The purpose of this project is to extend the service life of the pavement and bring the corridor up to …  standards by resurfacing the existing roadway pavement, improving pedestrian push button signals, and upgrading the lighting for the existing signalized crossings at SR A1A and the proposed mid-block crossing just west of Northeast Sixth Street,” said Thuc Le, the project manager.

Specifically, that means in addition to repaving and resurfacing the travel and bike lanes at their existing widths, the $600,000 project will:

• Add a new “high emphasis” crosswalk to the west side of Northeast Sixth Street in Boynton Beach, which means traffic will be stopped for pedestrians there and pavement will be striped more prominently than the usual dashes denoting crosswalks. Both that crosswalk and the ones at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and A1A will be activated with push buttons for pedestrians.
• Upgrade curb ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Enhance lighting for the pedestrian crosswalks and signalized intersections, with one additional light pole at the A1A intersection, and new fixtures for the existing light poles.

At least one lane of travel will be open during most of the project and access to adjacent properties will be maintained throughout, state officials said. Wholesale road closures will be limited mostly to nighttime when there’s less traffic. But Ocean Ridge Town Manager Lynne Ladner said she has concerns about how traffic will flow once the planned crosswalk is in place.

She told the Ocean Ridge Town Commission at its February meeting she didn’t think state officials were willing to engage with her concerns.

“We’ve expressed our extreme concerns about traffic, as it heads westbound over the bridge after bridge openings, but FDOT is adamant that it is going in,” Ladner told the commission, referring to the Northeast Sixth Street crosswalk.

The bridge openings, she noted, already cause the traffic backup to spill onto Federal Highway and North Ocean Boulevard.

At the meeting, Alex Meitin, a consulting project manager with Jacobs Engineering, said that Boynton Beach traffic studies indicate all will be well.

“It’s not like a signal that goes every three, four minutes — it’s not cycling,” he said. “It’s only when someone pushes the button. And then you have the assurance that you have a bridge tender who’s not going to open the bridge when a car is there.”

Ladner said that she already sees a traffic problem without the crosswalk, but that FDOT officials want to accommodate a request from Boynton Beach Vice Mayor Thomas Turkin, she told the commission.

Turkin couldn’t be reached for comment.

Currently, projects are underway that will add another 6,500 residents to the west side of the bridge over the next five years.

Kristine de Haseth, executive director for the Florida Coalition for Preservation and a former Ocean Ridge commissioner, wanted to know whether the project would address the flooding that takes place on that stretch of Ocean Avenue.

“It makes no sense to do a project, tear everything up and then two years later have funding to go back and replace the water mains or put in correct drainage or outfalls or whatever the case may be,” said de Haseth, whose organization says it represents the interests of six municipalities.

She was told that new inline valve checks will be installed as part of the project — but officials said it won’t address the long-term flooding issue with a raising of the road.

“We’re not replacing the roof,” Meitin said, drawing on a home repair metaphor for what’s happening in this project. “We’re patching, not replacing.”

Raising the road does not appear on the FDOT project list covering the next five years.

Another citizen question was why some of the lighting on Ocean Avenue was not working. Meitin said keeping the lights functioning is the responsibility of the municipalities.

“They’re aware of the situation and they’re working on it,” he said. 

The project will not affect marine traffic, as it will leave the actual bridge untouched. The contractor has not indicated which side of Ocean Avenue has been chosen for the start of the project.

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