From now until the election, the Town-Crier will ask questions each week to the six people seeking three seats on the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors. This week’s question: What are your thoughts regarding paved versus unpaved roads in The Acreage? What criteria would you use in deciding which roads need to be improved? How should such projects be funded?
ITID SEAT 5
Betty Argue — When the Indian Trail Improvement District’s neighborhoods were first subdivided in 1973, the developer had to provide roadway access to the lots. The roads were built with sand excavated from the canals currently existing throughout ITID. Roads that lead to residents’ homes should stay as dirt roads with an increase in maintenance, where needed, scheduled by Indian Trail. The main dirt roads that were paved to allow easier traffic flow should stay two-lane paved roads. None of our interior roads should be four-laned because of outside pressures, the county or developers. These roads service the residents within Indian Trail, and the residents pay for their maintenance.
All roads need to be improved, but only as they are designed today. The dirt roads need to have their crowns restored. It is my understanding that shell rock and fill can be taken from the two Indian Trail impoundment areas. This approach would save residents additional costs by using our own materials. If it is not possible to use the shell rock and fill from the impoundment areas, then FDOT-approved shell rock should be used — not what has recently been purchased to save money, which is not FDOT approved.
With ITID maintaining the roads, the residents maintain control over their own roadway system. Who do you trust with oversight of your roadway system? I trust somebody who is my neighbor, shares the same values as I do and has a vested interest in the community.
Carol Jacobs — The quarter-mile, dead-end roads should stay dirt roads for now, but with good quality FDOT-certified road rock, which holds the road together and last years longer. ITID should have a policy and make sure it is followed that all the dirt roads throughout the district have a six-inch-thick base of certified FDOT road rock. The longer, mile-plus main artery roads should be paved and have a sidewalk installed on one side of the road.
The big savings here, which I have been saying for years, is to bring all road paving projects in house. The district should and could buy its own paving equipment. This equipment would pay for itself in no time. The companies that sell such equipment will train our employees on how to operate it, leading to big savings. The district needs to hire or train employees we already have on board to have a road construction project crew, and each unit within the district have a crew to do the mowing, small road maintenance, grading and sign repairs.
We need to get all our employees to make a checklist in their area of pot holes, roads that need rock, damaged pipes, overgrown grass, missing drainage culverts and paved roads that need work, such as doing an overlay of a road before it becomes too late and ends up costing the district more money. Roads should continue to be funded through the annual budget, by units.
ITID SEAT 1
Mike Erickson — I believe you have to take a look at the life cycle costs and level of service in determining which roads should be paved. A paved road has more construction costs, but has very little maintenance costs over its complete life cycle.
The dirt roads that are traveled heavily, like our network roads, can be very costly to maintain grading, and frequently have complaints about speeding, quality and dust. These network dirt roads cost less and provide a higher level of service by being paved and traffic calmed. On the other hand, dead-end dirt roads should remain dirt, but, they should be improved using proper FDOT road rock.
A common sense approach to road building and maintenance, and a proactive, comprehensive approach to transportation planning, is what ITID needs. Roads, sidewalks, equestrian trails, greenways, traffic distribution, traffic control and traffic calming should all play a part in this plan. We also have the potential to connect our parks and nature areas with linear greenways to create an environment that is beautified, safe and can accommodate a real equestrian trail system.
We can build this network over time with our current budget allocations and by working with Palm Beach County and the MPO on funding opportunities. I further believe we can save tax money and get more bang for the buck by doing it in-house versus providing subcontractors additional profits. I was instrumental in getting the sidewalks on Coconut and Seminole Pratt built with county MPO money in the past. In fact, a sidewalk to the county park on Hamlin that I have sought for years recently got MPO construction funding. By working together with a real plan, we can stretch our tax dollars and do a better job of proactive transportation planning.
Jennifer Hager — Unpaved roads are part of our area’s rural character; a defining part of who we are as a community. Many residents have pleaded with ITID to balance both the concept of standing our ground and protecting what we have, and the concept of being more accepting of the “inevitable changes” that we, as a community, are likely going to face.
Many roads are in disrepair. Improvements should occur on a rotating basis with extra care allotted in areas with higher traffic volumes. Proper maintenance of our roads is paramount, and this includes the selection of materials used on them. Other roads are slated for widening (some via eminent domain) due to impending area development. I believe that the quarter-mile dirt roads should remain unpaved unless a super majority (75 percent, plus 1) of the property owners who reside on the street collectively decide that they want pavement, as well as the assessment that accompanies it.
Pavement begets pavement. Some problems with additional paving include: higher volumes of traffic, an increased number of accidents, increased surface runoff (which leads to the crumbling/erosion of the shoulders) and less groundwater absorption.
Ultimately, all residents will bear the burden of pavement. It will come at the cost of increased taxes and at the cost of lifestyle changes. I don’t feel that is a fair tradeoff in regard to convenience versus lifestyle. As an elected official, my goal is to carefully consider any future paving impacts while protecting the lifestyle choices so many residents willingly made when they chose dirt roads as the backdrop for their lives.
ITID SEAT 3
Ralph Bair — As a longtime resident of The Acreage, I have witnessed the changes that paving roads have made. In many instances it has been beneficial; raising property values, saving on vehicle repairs, easing the flow of traffic and saving costly repairs to the road network. On the other hand, it has increased speeding, people not paying attention to signs and prompting the district to install traffic calming. No question, paving is a double-edged sword.
Road paving in The Acreage was done in a grid pattern to bring residents as close to a paved road as possible. As an Indian Trail Improvement District board member, I supported paving heavily used roads to bring everyone within one mile of a paved road during the R-1 project, and later within a half-mile during the R-2 project. This was paid for by bonding these projects over the entire district, since it benefited all residents. This way, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue, mail trucks and garbage service could reach nearly everywhere in the district without getting stuck on sandy roads. In those days, even tow trucks got stuck trying to pull out vehicles.
The system used by the district to determine which roads need paving is the number of complaints, as well as the condition of the road itself. After the district examines the road to determine what needs to be done, safety, condition and costs are factored in.
The district has many methods to pay for these improvements: directly taxing the entire district, sub-district M-1 and M-2 or the individual unit itself. Also, through the Municipal Services Taxing Unit a 50/50 split between the residents and Palm Beach County, as well as federal, state or local grants.
Alan Ballweg — Dirt roads are an integral part of the history and character of The Acreage. Okeechobee used to be a dirt road all the way to the turnpike. If properly constructed and maintained, dirt roads provide good service, and are safe and economical. Dirt roads perform best if daily traffic is about 150 vehicles or less. Paved roads are many times more expensive to construct than dirt roads, but last longer and can handle more traffic.
In the 1990s, ITID decided that every home should be within a half mile of a paved road. Paving the high-traffic sections was a good financial decision. However, many sections with low traffic were also paved. In my opinion, this needlessly increased taxes for residents.
The roads are mostly funded by issuing long-term debt, and we are still paying back about $19 million. The ITID road system has been estimated to have a replacement value of about $160 million, and along with our drainage infrastructure, is by far the most important asset of ITID. Any significant decisions about roads should be subject to a rigorous, long-term cost/benefit analysis.
The Minto West project plans to use our roadways and dump about 70,000 trips per day into our area, using many of the roads that we have been paying for for decades, bringing congestion, pollution, more large trucks, speeding and noise into our area. If elected, I will act aggressively to protect our area from what I call “Traffic Storm Minto,” using every means available, including litigation.