One again, the critical transportation needs of the western communities have fallen victim to the delay tactics of the eastern establishment. Decades after State Road 7’s connection to Northlake Blvd. was promised, there has been yet another probable delay.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced plans this week to move its funding down the road another four years, from 2016 to 2020. FDOT blamed rising cost estimates, along with limited funding, but the dominant reason seems to be the belief that lawsuit threats from the City of West Palm Beach will likely delay the project, at least for a few more years. Among the ironies here is that this latest delay comes just weeks after FDOT managed to get the studies completed that set aside the baseless environmental claims pushed forward by West Palm Beach officials to justify what in reality is a bad case of NIMBY.
While we applaud the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization for its objection to yet another delay to a roadway that should have been built in the 1990s, pardon us for not being too surprised when a large chunk of the suddenly available money — State Road 7’s money — was shifted to the temporary bridge project connecting Southern Blvd. to the Town of Palm Beach.
Whether it is Palm Beach County taking needed money slated for Seminole Pratt Whitney Road improvements to fund Palm Tran during a budget crisis, or state officials bowing to the threats of baseless lawsuits, the end result is the same. The road infrastructure in the western communities remains woefully inadequate for the needs of current residents, let alone the thousands more that recent and future county approvals will bring.
Two phases of State Road 7’s extension north of Okeechobee Blvd. have now been completed, both by Palm Beach County at the expense of county taxpayers, since Tallahassee has found itself completely unable to make the improvements necessary to one of the state’s key arteries over the course of 30 years. This time around, the state went through a years-long approval and design process, only to once again kick the can down the road rather than uphold the promises that were made when West Palm Beach’s Okeechobee Blvd. and Ibis developments were approved.
The long-promised SR 7 connection to Northlake Blvd. is needed, and it’s what is best for not just the western communities, but all of Palm Beach County — West Palm Beach included, even if the city’s leaders haven’t realized it yet.