Indian Trail Improvement District supervisors approved a special permit last week for Palm Beach County to connect 60th Street to the State Road 7 extension. The connection is expected to significantly relieve traffic on Persimmon and Orange Grove boulevards.
The SR 7 extension is currently under construction from its current terminus at Persimmon north to 60th Street. That project is being done by the county, which completed the extension from Okeechobee Blvd. to Persimmon in 2009.
The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to complete the connection to Northlake Blvd. by 2015.
In November, the ITID board placed conditions on the permit approval, including that the county reduce the number of lanes from three to two over concerns that three lanes would encourage speeding and encourage western development. Additional conditions were to lower the speed limit to 30 mph and to landscape the road to buffer it from nearby residents.
Resident Patricia Curry was concerned about 60th Street having a thoroughfare designation. “Whenever roads are designated a thoroughfare, they leave the community open to special land-use applications for commercial,” Curry said, who added that the road should have heavy landscaping because it now is only a lightly traveled dirt road.
Former Supervisor Mike Erickson said that 60th Street was designed as an arterial to relieve the connections currently at Persimmon and Orange Grove.
“This is one more link that has been planned in this process,” Erickson said. “It will help relieve some of the other roads that are already connected, and the big relief is going to come forward when we get to Northlake.”
Erickson also pointed out that the three-lane concept was for the benefit of the residents along 60th Street for people to get in and out of their driveways, not about developing a superhighway.
County Engineer George Webb said the county has been pursuing the SR 7 extension for at least eight years, and that ITID’s approving permits for the county to connect to Persimmon and Orange Grove was predicated on ITID’s trust of the county’s pledge to continue the road northward to 60th Street and, ultimately, to Northlake.
“We don’t want this to be the end-all of this road,” Webb said. “We’re going to work on getting that road extended. We have a vision, and the vision was to go another mile north and tie into a brand-new roadway that only has residents on one side — a road that was going to be a Palm Beach County right-of-way.”
Webb explained that the 60th Street connection will relieve the two residential streets that have had to bear the burden from the traffic that has been using the SR 7 extension.
“We’re here tonight kind of as a celebration in that we said what we were going to do, and we think we’ve done it,” Webb said. “We’ve got the money. We’re ready to move forward with the project and provide relief for those other two roadways and to focus and provide a section that we said we were going to build seven years ago.”
In November, the board had specified that the connection be reduced from three lanes to two, but Webb said the third lane is a two-way left-turn lane and will enable residents on 60th Street to turn left off the road and onto the road safely. He said it is not intended as a passing lane and that the county’s commitment to put curbed, landscaped medians in the road would prevent motorists from using it that way.
He also pointed out that the county will clear out the invasive melaleuca trees that are on the south side of the M Canal now. “That’s where the road is going to be,” Webb said.
The county plans to plant more than 250 trees and 1,000 clumps of ornamental grass. “We’re trying to do what we can to make this thing look good,” Webb said. “This is going to be the main connector to State Road 7. We want it to be that way. We want people in The Acreage to use this as the main way of getting there, rather than using Orange Grove or Persimmon.”
Supervisor Ralph Bair asked about the status of the 60th Street Bridge, which is scheduled to be improved across Royal Palm Beach Blvd. to improve visibility for drivers. Webb said the current project will put them within a few hundred feet of the bridge.
“What we’re planning on doing is coming back with another permit,” Webb said, explaining that they also have to get a permit from the City of West Palm Beach, since the bridge crosses the city-owned M Canal.
The entire intersection will be raised in order to improve visibility across the bridge. “That’s the next step in the project,” he said, adding that a traffic signal also is planned there.
ITID President Jennifer Hager said she was torn because she had moved to The Acreage for the dirt roads but also wanted to relieve traffic on Persimmon. “I use that road multiple times during the day and on weekends,” she said. “It is a nightmare.”
Hager was also concerned about future paving to the west on 60th Street, which is planned to continue to 140th Avenue North. “Who is to say it’s not going to just keep on coming?” she asked.
Hager also asked whether the speed limit could be reduced to 30 mph, explaining that she rides horses at 130th Avenue North and 60th Street. “That personally affects me and all the other people who have activities on the roads out here,” she said.
Webb said traffic speed studies could be conducted when the project is finished.
Supervisor Michelle Damone said the project has been a compromise but must be completed in order to be successful. “This is a key component,” she said. “This is that middle key to that entire project going north to Northlake Blvd.”
Damone said she heard that the state has put money into the engineering portion of the SR 7 extension to Northlake Blvd. “We promised the people on Persimmon and Orange Grove that if they took a leap of faith with us that we would move this forward,” she said.
Supervisor Carol Jacobs said she had been against the Persimmon and Orange Grove connections initially but talked to residents and finally decided that if they didn’t open those connections, they would never get the road to Northlake.
“If we don’t open them up now, we’re never going to get to Northlake,” Jacobs said. “We use them in The Acreage, so it’s obviously needed. If we don’t want 60th, we’re going to never get to Northlake.”
Damone made a motion to approve the county’s requested permit for the 60th Street connection without the conditions demanded in November. The motion carried 5-0.