This past week saw many concerned residents of the western communities turn out at the polls to make their voices heard. For those who did, we commend you for making the effort to take part in the democratic process. However, the coming week will require another effort on the part of local residents as the Florida Department of Transportation holds a crucial public hearing on the planned State Road 7 extension to Northlake Blvd.
The public hearing will take place Wednesday, March 21 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center, and we strongly encourage everyone to attend. This isn’t just another meeting; its purpose is for residents to give their input. And just like with the polls on Election Day, it’s a battle between opposing sides to get their people to show up.
The City of West Palm Beach is planning to bus its residents to the hearing to voice opposition to the plan. That’s why it’s crucial that residents of Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee and The Acreage make every effort to attend.
Though the project has gained momentum and cleared some key hurdles — such as last July’s vote by the board of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization to keep the roadway a priority on the MPO’s five-year road plan — it still faces strong opposition from Ibis residents, led by West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., in an effort to get federal agencies and members of Congress to oppose the long-planned roadway. Opponents are playing the environmental card, making claims that it will threaten the city’s water supply. The problem is, it isn’t true. SR 7’s right of way between Okeechobee and Northlake boulevards — which has existed since 1948 — runs adjacent to the West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area. It doesn’t cut through it like the plan’s opponents claim.
Beyond the fears, whether real or manufactured, of what the road will do to their drinking water, residents of Ibis and other communities off Northlake are concerned with traffic. It’s an understandable concern under normal circumstances. However, given the history of the SR 7 extension plan — which was developed before Ibis even existed — they’re not in a position to tell Royal Palm Beach and Acreage residents that they should have to “deal with it” and rely on the ridiculously congested Royal Palm Beach Blvd. as their only north-south arterial road.
This road was promised to the community decades ago, so for opponents to try to throw a monkey wrench into the project at this late hour is frustrating, to say the least. But they’ve made up their minds, and the only thing to do now is to try to beat them at the numbers game. For more information about the plan, visit www.sr7extension.com… and show up on March 21 to let your voice be heard!