Work is continuing slowly on the widening of a 3.5-mile stretch of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road north of Southern Blvd., despite the contractor’s difficulty coordinating the road project with Florida Power & Light crews installing street lighting, according to county officials.
Palm Beach County Engineer George Webb said he has had regular meetings with the contractor, Tatum Construction, regarding progress on the project. He said there have been some issues with how the project has been managed, and that supervisors told him they intend to continue work while addressing the issues.
The county and the Indian Trail Improvement District have received inquiries regarding the slow progress and about the lighting, which has been changed in response to residents’ comments that the original lighting plan was too intense for the semi-rural area.
Assistant County Engineer Tanya McConnell said the process has been complicated by coordination with FPL’s street light and utility pole construction.
“There’s no question it’s taking a long time with issues that held up the project for almost a year,” McConnell said. “What you’re seeing now is a regular construction project. There are regular lane closures as needed to keep traffic away from what we consider dangerous areas where we are putting in drainage and curb structures. They work on certain lanes at a time and make them drivable, and transfer traffic to the new lanes so they can do the old lanes.”
McConnell said the lane closures are published at www.pbc gov.com/engineering/roadway production so drivers can anticipate closures and changes in traffic patterns.
Seminole Pratt Whitney Road from Southern Blvd. to north of Sycamore Drive is being widened to four lanes, with two lanes in each direction, and a raised, grassed median separating the northbound from southbound lanes. There are sidewalks on both sides. The project is anticipated to be completed by January.
McConnell said the lane closures are a standard requirement in construction.
“You barricade off the area that the contractor is working in so that it is not accessible to the driving public for everybody’s safety,” she said.
Meanwhile, some lanes are kept open to allow passage of traffic while work continues on the other lanes.
“The contractor is continuing to work despite the fact that we still have outstanding issues with the utilities,” McConnell said.
Webb said the lighting being installed has been changed in some areas from 200 to 400 watts on 30-foot poles, rather than 32-foot poles, spaced farther apart.
“We have the brighter bulbs — they are going to look a little bit different — but it will enable us to have fewer poles on the different sides,” he said. “The spacing is going to be different. The lighting levels will be the same, but we’re able to pay for fewer poles in some places.”
Webb also pointed out that the project was not simply installation of street lights but moving the FPL utility line on the west side of the road, with the 400-watt lights attached to those utility poles.
“The completion of the street lights doesn’t have anything to do with our contractor,” Webb said. “Those street lights are independent of what he’s doing. We’re relying on our contractor to move forward.”
Webb pointed out that the contractor also has the next leg of four-laning from the M Canal north to Northlake Blvd.
Seminole Pratt from south of 60th Street to Orange Blvd. will be widened to four lanes in a similar manner as the project from Southern to north of Sycamore. That project is anticipated to begin next August.
Similar widening of Seminole Pratt from Orange Blvd. to Northlake Blvd. is under design, with construction scheduled to start in 2015.
A future two-lane road is planned to continue Seminole Pratt from Northlake Blvd. to the Beeline Highway, although that project is not yet in the design phase at the present time.
The county road projects do not include closing existing intersecting streets, and will not affect the ability of traffic to enter or leave Seminole Pratt, with the exception of impacts at intersections that will not have median openings. Those intersections will be limited to “right-in, right-out” movements.
Cross streets in that area are too closely spaced to allow proper traffic movements, so while some street intersections will have fully open medians, making left turns and U-turns possible, roughly every other street will have a “filled in” median, which will require the driver entering the road to proceed either north or south on Seminole Pratt to the next opening to make a U-turn if needed.
Rights-of-way have been acquired as needed. Additionally, it was necessary to acquire easements, some temporary and some permanent, to allow for construction of the road and proper drainage adjacent to the road. The county has also acquired entire parcels of open land in several areas to allow for construction of drainage ponds to store surface water runoff.
For widening Seminole Pratt from Orange to Northlake Blvd., the county already owns an easement for the required width of right-of-way, and only those parcels required for retention ponds are being acquired, as well as embankment easements and construction easements throughout the project, and “corner clips” at some side streets.
Meanwhile, the portion of the road running through Callery-Judge Grove will remain unchanged until discussions take place with the land’s future developer, Webb said.