RPB Staff To Attend MPO Meeting On Okeechobee Overpasses

The Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization is expected to discuss overpasses at its May 15 meeting, including one tentatively planned at State Road 7 and Okeechobee Blvd.

At the Thursday, May 1 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, Village Manager Ray Liggins asked the council to authorize sending a village staff member to the MPO’s technical committee meeting May 7 in order to keep tabs on the discussion.

“They meet once a month, and they basically meet [to review] the agenda that the MPO board will meet on,” Liggins said. “That would keep us more in touch with what’s going on there.”

Liggins added that the MPO had a study done by its consultant on Okeechobee Blvd. overpasses. That study was submitted in April.

“It dealt with how much capacity increase we get from these overpasses, including are they worth it, and should they be kept in the long-range plan,” Liggins said. “The conclusion was they might not be feasible.”

Liggins said the board will be dealing with the question on May 15.

“It’s a Thursday morning before our next council meeting,” he said. “What I’d like to do is attend that meeting with the council’s permission, with the concern that if they’re discussing reducing the capacity of the roadway or its capabilities by doing something different with the overpasses, we would like it not to just happen that easily, and for there to be alternatives to that.”

Liggins pointed out that the long-planned but still uncompleted Roebuck Road extension has been discussed as an Okeechobee Blvd. reliever. Rights-of-way have been largely obtained, but the road was never completed, mostly because residents of Baywinds, Andros Isle and River Walk in West Palm Beach oppose the road. Ironically, those developments were built under conditions of an interlocal agreement that Roebuck Road would be built to relieve traffic on Okeechobee.

“When we look at Roebuck Road as an alternative to those overpasses, we truly feel that Roebuck Road is more cost-feasible than the overpasses at Jog and State Road 7,” Liggins said. “The county has listened to us on that, and they modified their comprehensive plan. They have accepted conditions that say all alternatives will be considered prior to doing these overpasses.”

While overpasses are not ideal, removing them without an alternative is not a good solution, he said.

“We kind of thought it would be a good thing to put these overpasses as the last needed improvement,” Liggins said. “I don’t think that just removing them is the right thing. I don’t have enough information, but we’ll go through that report, go to that meeting and state our concern on protecting the capacity on Okeechobee, because it is our main route into town.”

Councilman Fred Pinto said his understanding of current MPO policy is that the overpasses would be the last of potential remedies to relieve traffic on Okeechobee Blvd.

“This is a projected scenario 15 to 20 years in the future,” Pinto said. “It would be totally inappropriate for them just to remove that and not put in a line that says they will pursue other remedies to address this problem.”