Our Town with William Kelly: Town Council to consider proposal to widen stretch of State Road A1A -Update

William Kelly  |  Our Council  |  Our Town  |  May 9, 2022

(UPDATE: The Town Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to request that the Florida Department of Transportation resurface the segment of State Road A1A under consideration, without widening the road beyond its existing dimensions. 

The council also requested improvements to the asphalt recreation path, including possible extensions to its width and length).

A proposal to resurface and widen a stretch of State Road A1A and a nearby pedestrian/bicycling path in the South End will be before the Town Council at its meeting on Tuesday.

Town staff is recommending against widening A1A because of aesthetic and safety concerns. Town officials say widening the road and recreation path as proposed would take away green space and reduce a median needed to keep drivers and pedestrians at a safe distance.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is preparing to begin the engineering design for maintenance of the section of A1A between Lake Avenue in the City of Lake Worth Beach and Ibis Way, just south of Phipps Ocean Park. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2025.

In 2017, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA) performed a study of opportunities to increase bicycle and pedestrian safety along the A1A corridor from Boca Raton to Jupiter. Where possible, this study recommended wider traffic lanes, the addition of bicycle lanes, and wider pedestrian paths.

The TPA is requesting that the proposed bicycle and pedestrian improvements be implemented as part of the FDOT project, Public Works Director Paul Brazil wrote in a memo to Mayor Danielle Moore and the council.

According to Brazil, the proposed changes for the section of roadway in the South End include:

  • Widening of the two traffic lanes from 11 feet to 12 feet.
  • Widening of the paved shoulders from 3 feet to 5 feet.
  • Increasing the width of the asphalt recreation path to 10 feet. The width currently varies from four to six feet.

The TPA’s recommendations also include a new bike lane for a limited distance which would not connect to an existing bike lane on the north or south side. Staff believes this would be confusing to drivers and bicyclists, Brazil wrote.

The TPA’s requests are not mandatory. Town staff and the council, which is scheduled to consider the subject at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, will provide the town’s recommendations to FDOT, Town Manager Kirk Blouin said Friday.

Town staff recommends the project be limited to milling and resurfacing A1A at its existing dimensions and rebuilding the asphalt recreation path. The town staff is open to a slight widening of the recreation path, Blouin said.

The grass median between the edge of the paved shoulder of A1A and the asphalt path varies in width but is only seven feet wide at its narrowest point. Expanding A1A by three feet on both sides, while adding width to the asphalt recreation path, would reduce the grass median to as little as two feet, according to Brazil.

Blouin said the town is concerned about the aesthetic impact of adding asphalt in the area while taking away green space. Safety is an even bigger concern, he said.

The TPA’s proposal “would put the roadway very close to the path,” Blouin said.

The widening of A1A and the recreation path would also require the removal of improvements within the DOT right of way, including hedges and flower beds, pavers, lighting, irrigation and other equipment, and portions of driveways into the condominium properties lining the road.

The additional asphalt also would lead to more standing water after rainfalls, Blouin said.

Skip Aldridge, co-chairman of the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach, which represents most of the residential buildings in the South End, said it supports the town’s staff recommendation to mill and resurface A1A without widening the road.

The Citizens’ Association would like to see the recreation path widened by two feet, which would make it six feet wide in nearly all places, Aldridge said. It also would like the path to be extended a little farther northward so that the paved portion of it terminates at the 2100 Condominium, he said.

Town Councilman Lew Crampton, who lives in the South End, said residents there do not want any additional pavement that would attract more bicyclists while robbing the corridor of its prized green space.

“We are already deluged with bicyclists,” Crampton said.

The TPA was established to advise the DOT on ways to improve transportation corridors. “But this proposal is not quite right for us,” he said.

 

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