A ribbon cutting for the State Road 7 extension from Persimmon Blvd. to 60th Street, then west to Royal Palm Beach Blvd., set for Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 10 a.m., will be another major step toward the ultimate goal of connecting SR 7 with Northlake Blvd.
The ceremony will take place at the road’s Persimmon Blvd. connection.
The extension has been financed completely by the county thus far, including the previous connection from Okeechobee Blvd. to Persimmon. The final leg, from 60th Street to Northlake, has been allocated state and federal funding, but the project remains tied up in litigation.
“The county has followed through completely on its commitments to connect State Road 7 to Northlake Blvd.,” said Indian Trail Improvement District Supervisor Michelle Damone, who has served as SR 7 liaison for the Western Communities Council.
All of the western communities have shown overall support for the project, including financing a lobbyist through the Western Communities Council to try to assure that the final state-funded leg is finished.
“The opening of 60th is another victory,” Damone said, explaining that it will help disperse traffic in The Acreage and ease the pressure on Orange Grove and Persimmon boulevards. “It puts us one step closer to Northlake Blvd.”
Damone said she expects a response on financing for 60th to Northlake by Jan. 5, explaining that the Florida Department of Transportation anticipates further resistance from the City of West Palm Beach.
“The funding is still in place; the construction is supposed to begin in 2016,” she said. “FDOT recommended on Dec. 8 to the [Palm Beach County] Metropolitan Planning Organization to shift funding to the expansion and widening of the southern portion that exists now. The Metropolitan Planning Organization objected to that because that would have delayed the Northlake portion to 2020.”
She said the Western Communities Council is in the process of supporting the MPO and will be filing its own objections to the funding shift later this month.
Overall, Damone credits the county with its support of the extension through the financing and construction thus far, and working with ITID to reach compromises, even when it was difficult at times to work with a contentious and divided board.
“The dedication that Palm Beach County has shown to all of the western communities for the extension of State Road 7 to 60th Street is the county’s foresight. The road exists today because of the compromises made back in 2000,” she said, explaining that the county moved the road west from the original alignment to avoid cutting directly through the Pond Cypress Natural Area in order to avoid any environmental issues.
From 60th Street, the FDOT alignment will cut back east to the original route, which runs between the Ibis community and West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve.
“That road is environmentally compatible,” she said. “They built a beautiful, environmentally compatible road. The county has stepped up, and they have definitely shown the commitment to the western communities.”
County Engineer George Webb said the second leg is a major accomplishment in light of the travails the road has seen.
“When the entire first phase was envisioned, we had connections at Orange Grove and Persimmon,” Webb said. “We knew that that was not going to be all the connections, and that 60th Street was also going to be there as well.”
Webb said that when the county sought a permit from ITID for connections to Orange Grove and Persimmon boulevards, the ITID board was very concerned about the county’s ability to follow through on its commitment to make a connection to 60th Street.
“I reassured them on multiple occasions that it was the county’s full intent that we would continue that project the additional mile to the north and make an improved, paved 60th Street, because 60th Street at the time was shellrock,” Webb said.
Webb said he is very proud of the county’s ability to follow through on that commitment.
“We did exactly what we said we were going to do,” he said. “I’m very happy, particularly for the residents on Persimmon, because I’m not sure that the residents on Orange Grove are going to have that much change in traffic, but the traffic on Persimmon should significantly change with the new roadway. The residents have had to put up with a lot of traffic over the last few years.”
The new 1-mile segment from Persimmon to 60th has two lanes, and the three-quarter-mile 60th Street connection to Royal Palm Beach Blvd. has a total of three, including a center turn lane.
Both segments were designed by KF Group Consultants and constructed under a county contract with J.W. Cheatham. The total project cost was $9 million.
Construction of 60th Street North from 120th Avenue North to Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and the replacement of the existing Royal Palm Beach Blvd. bridge over the M Canal, is scheduled to begin next spring.