Delray moves ahead to narrow Federal Highway permanently

cars passing barrier on federal hghway

Cars pass one of the barriers on south bound Federal.

By David Sedore

Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Those bizarre-looking temporary barriers on Federal Highway through the downtown could be around for a few more years.

The reason is simple: They seem to work. The barriers cut the number of lanes on the divided highway from six to four. They’ve slowed speeding drivers and reduced the number of accidents without significantly delaying traffic — all as intended.

“I was one of the most vocal opponents,” Commissioner Fred Fetzer said. “I am convinced now this is the better way to go.”

Delray Police Sgt. Rich Jacobson said the barriers essentially are doing what the department can’t do because of limited manpower.

“If we can do this by environmental design, that would be the preferred method, in my opinion,” Jacobson said. “From what I can see, the lane reductions have helped."

If Fetzer has been one of the most vocal opponents of the project, then Commissioner Gary Eliopoulos has been one of its most vocal proponents.

Eliopoulos noted that the Florida Department of Highways widened the roadway to six lanes decades ago in order to accommodate traffic as it built I-95. The department intended the widening as temporary, but it instead became a permanent part of the city. Going back to four lanes will benefit the Atlantic Avenue corridor by making Federal safer, less intimidating for pedestrians to cross. It will also get traffic to pull into store parking lots instead of whizzing by them.

“This is Design 101,” Eliopoulos said. “You slow down traffic and you get more business.”

City Engineer Randal Krejcarek estimated the cost of the project at $11 million, with the city in line to get $4.5 million in state and federal grants. The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency would pick up the remainder of the tab.

Commissioners Tuesday agreed to ask the Department of Highways to incorporate the narrowing and beautification project into plans for resurfacing Federal already scheduled. Doing so will save money.

CRA Executive Director Diane Colonna is confident the agency will be able to finance the project. If nothing else, the agency could resort to doing the work in phases and it could borrow the money.

“This is an opportunity to get it the way we want it,” Colonna said.

If all goes well, the first shovel of dirt would turn in late summer of 2011, Krejcarek said.

Commissioner Mackenson Bernard said the city should be spending the $4.5 million on improving Atlantic Avenue itself from I-95 to Federal. Krejcarek said the grants, if received, could be spent only on the Federal Highway work.

Colonna cited a number of Atlantic Avenue projects the CRA has working or on the drawing board.

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MAY 19, 2009 click to go home
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