By Brian Biggane

After a pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver on State Road A1A last November, South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer worked to have a representative of the Florida Department of Transportation come to Town Hall to address residents’ safety concerns.

Those efforts came to fruition Jan. 29, when Jonathan Overton, the traffic engineer for the five-county South Florida FDOT district based in Fort Lauderdale, spent 90 minutes answering questions from a near-capacity crowd of about 80.

Nearly 20 residents voiced their concerns, the vast majority of whom asking Overton what needs to be done to establish one or more crosswalks in the town which, while only five-eighths of a mile long, is the most densely populated along the A1A corridor south of Palm Beach.

Overton didn’t offer any quick solutions, pointing out that while there is an asphalt walkway running along much of the west side of the road, there is nothing similar on the east side.

“I don’t want to lead someone to a dead end,” he said. “There needs to be connectivity.”

James Donatelli, a resident of the Palm Beach Harbour Club, proposed as many as four to six crosswalks, including from his condo on the west side to the Barclay on the east side.

The Barclay is the former home of Hatixhe Laiqi, 73, who lost her life while attempting to cross A1A at dusk on Nov. 10.

“A pedestrian was killed here … largely because she was invisible,” Donatelli said. “The lighting is terrible and we don’t have crosswalks. (Putting one there) would serve over 300 residents of the two buildings.”

Barclay resident Alan Stern said he had contacted an FDOT official who works under Overton, who wrote him that crosswalk placements “are based upon a strategic plan and would require an engineering study to determine need.”

Overton said a study would cost “a couple of thousand dollars” and needs to be paid for by the condos or the town.

As the questions continued, Overton often referred to the problem created by the absence of a sidewalk on the road’s east side. He said he drove up and down A1A several times prior to arriving at Town Hall and saw an elderly couple struggling to walk through the grass.

One suggestion that drew applause was cutting the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 or even 15 mph. The Town Council could approve such a change, but Overton was wary and FDOT would have the final say.

“If I posted an unreasonably slow speed limit some people would say ‘I’ll stay at that,’ but others would be tearing their hair out, and pass on the right or the shoulder or cross the yellow line.”

One problem the town has faced for years is a lack of beach access. Some properties on the west side of A1A pay those on the east side to use their easements, but there is no public access north of Lantana Beach.

Residents on the east side also cross to use the west side walkway. There were several complaints that the walkway is in poor condition, and Overton promised to address those with his maintenance people.

Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy has been adamant that a solution must be found and suggested an ad hoc committee be formed to address the situation. Several residents agreed to serve on it.

“I was thrilled with the turnout, thrilled with the comments,” LeRoy said afterward. “We have to solve this, because it’s not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.”

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Comments

  • Ridiculous that there is no pedestrian crosswalk on A1A. I lived near Lantana Beach on the ICW side and hardly anyone would ever let you cross the street. When you walked to Manalapan Publix there is a crosswalk in front of the Carlyle but no cars ever stop for you to cross it. Never lived anywhere where motorists are so dismissive of pedestrians (and cyclists and runners!) People are always speeding and this is not the first time there has been a fatality on A1A in SPB. There was one a few ears ago as well.

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